The Paradox of Self-Deception in “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars”
In his story “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars”, Junot Diaz presents to the reader a couple going through a tumultuous time in their relationship. News of Yunior’s infidelity had just come to light via a letter that his mistress sent to his girlfriend Magdalena. Reacting to the situation, Yunior confesses and goes on a journey to try and win Magda back. Throughout the story, Yunior, who also serves as narrator, attempts to convince not only the reader but also himself that he is simply a good guy that made a mistake. However, even though he was sincere and showed genuine emotion while delivering his mea culpa, Yunior never quite grasps the magnitude of his actions and the repercussions that arose from it. Instead, he decides to downplay what he did in an act of self-deception, which inadvertently results in a lack of persuasion of both Magda and the reader.
Right from the start, Díaz introduces the reader to a feckless, yet self-aware, narrator. Yunior, the narrator, decides to begin the story by claiming to be a good person, even though he admits to cheating on his girlfriend; “I’m not a bad guy. I know how that sounds—defensive, unscrupulous—but it’s true. I’m like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good.” (Díaz 1). It’s interesting to see how it does not take very long for Yunior to defend himself in what appears to be a disclaimer to the reader before he proceeds with the story. By saying how he’s weak like everybody else, Yunior deflects blame and basically gives an excuse as to why he did what he did. Acts like these make it seem as if he were hard pressed on convincing the reader, and perhaps even himself, that he is in fact good. On the other hand, Yunior does prove to be sincere and reliable by acknowledging how defensive he sounds and being honest when explaining how he managed to sabotage his relationship with Magdalena. This, however, is overshadowed by his multiple attempts to downplay his affair to the reader.
As narrator, Yunior is also very upfront when it comes to sharing his opinions and intentions. An example of this would be how he does not shy away from stating how much he loves Magdalena or from describing what a hard time it was for him after she got the letter. But Yunior also opens up about other things that lead the reader to question how good of a person Yunior really is. At one point, he even admits to the reader that he was not planning on telling Magda about the affair if it were not for the letter that she receives; “You know how it is. A smelly bone like that, better off buried in the backyard of your life.” (Díaz 1). As mentioned before, Yunior does try his best to fix the relationship between him and Magda. However, after hearing how he was not going to tell her in the first place, the reader is left to wonder whether or not Yunior really loved Magda enough to tell her about the affair eventually or if he was just trying to do some damage control to the unexpected hit that struck the relationship.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mea culpa as a formal acknowledgement of personal fault or error. While discussing the events that occurred from the moment Magda got the letter on, Yunior also lets the reader know how much love he has for her and how badly he feels about the whole thing; “When she asked me, Why don’t you leave me alone? I told her the truth: It’s because I love you, mami. I know this sounds like a load of doo-doo, but it’s true: Magda’s my heart.” (Díaz 4). But even though he makes it pretty clear that he does in fact care about Magda, it’s lines like the one that comes right after that makes the reader wonder if Yunior fully understood why Magda was having such a hard time forgiving him; “I didn’t want her to leave me; I wasn’t about to start looking for a girlfriend because I’d fucked up one lousy time.” (Díaz 4). There’s no doubt that his mea culpa was authentic, but how sorry can someone really feel when he or she doesn’t fully comprehend the severity of his or her mistake?
Perhaps Yunior’s ignorance can be attributed to the stereotypical Latin lover persona. This stereotype exemplifies a ladies’ man whose only purpose is to be seductive and desirable, not taking into consideration how the women might feel. This type of persona makes it okay for a man to cheat, given the fact that women are constantly all over him and, as a man, he cannot control his carnal desires. There is a possibility that Yunior is guilty of being influenced by this social construct and, consequently, of falling into the stereotype. For instance, Latin lovers are known for being involved with multiple women at the same time as if it were a good thing. In the story, Yunior discloses to the reader that he called Magda right after cheating on her with Cassandra; “I was like, She knows, so I called Magda right from the bed and asked if she was OK.” (Díaz 18). Maybe Yunior wanted to feel like a true ladies’ man at that moment, with one girl lying next to him and another girl on the phone. For all one knows, Yunior might have even wanted to get caught.
Whichever reason it may be, ignorance does not equal innocence. Saying that everyone makes mistakes does not rationalize poor judgment. Even if he does not think of himself as a “bad guy”, Yunior’s actions contradict him at every turn. The mere foundation of his argument is that he’s basically a good guy so therefore he does not deserve to lose Magda, no matter what he has done to ruin the relationship. Yunior does admit that it wasn’t right for him to cheat on such a wonderful woman, but goes on to justify his deception by saying that the fling was something he could not control. Not only that, but he never really gets why Magda is making such a big deal over the affair. To him the affair is done with, just something that happened in the past and the past is where it should remain. There lies the problem as to why Yunior’s mea culpa is not persuasive. His inability to see where Magdalena is coming from prevents him from truly feeling regret and, unfortunately, also prevents him from successfully convincing Magda to forgive him and take him back. Ultimately, and unbeknownst to him, Yunior proves to be his biggest obstacle in the fight to try and salvage his and Magdalena’s relationship.
iaz, Junot. “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars.” This is How You Lose Her. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. Print. “Mea Culpa.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
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