Summary of a Novel Drown by Junot Diaz

Categories: Novel

Drown written by Junot Diaz tells a story narrated by a Hispanic teenage boy from New Jersey named Yunior. Yunior's mother mentions that his old friend, Beto is coming to town. Throughout the story, he begins to think about different events that happened in the past. The main plot is about Yunior's friendship with Beto. Yunior also talks about his personal issues that he is dealing with, such as life at home and in this neighborhood. He doesn't really have a relationship with his father because he lives in Florida, and at home, it is just him and his mom.

He is hanging out with the wrong crowd and is out on the streets dealing drugs to provide for him and his mother. He begins to open up and talk about two sexual encounters that happened between Beto and him.

He goes back and forth about how he felt during those times and how he feels now since that he hears Beto is back.

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The exploration of sexuality, especially homosexuality, becomes an overwhelming sensation to the teenage experience where it can literally feel like one is drowning in it. This is because it is resistant to the social norms of a heterosexual society, and when one is confronted by it, the uncertainty of the experience and fear of non-conformity causes Yunior to detach himself from his best friend Beto, avoid any positive opportunities to escape the life that he hates, and in the literal sense, barely keep afloat to support his mother.

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After experiencing two sexual encounters with his best friend Beto, Yunior is seemingly fine but once Beto leaves, two years pass without any reconnection, and when Beto comes back into town he continues to avoid him because Beto is a pato. Pato is a Spanish slang term for a gay having negative connotations to its meaning. For a Hispanic male to be called a pato was to degrade his masculinity and associate him with expressions of hate. There is such a big stigma when it comes to Hispanic culture. Boys/men have to always stay tough, shut and out how they feel have a strong sense of masculinity. It's all about pride, like they always have to prove their manliness. For instance, when Yunior and his male counterparts go out clubbing, they come across a fag bar, pass by to point a plastic pistol at them, just to see if they'll run or shit their pants. For Yunior to call Bet that, shows hit little respect for Beto. Yunior goes back and forth in time when he speaks about Beto, that shows the long history between them.

The author Junot Diaz, indicates that Yunior lives both, the past and present. Yunior does place his friendship in past tense and does inform readers that Beto's sexuality is the reason why. Yunior tries to bring up old memories of him and Beto but can't do it without bringing up memories of Beto's betrayal and sexual encounters. Everything that once brought him joy only become reminders of what happened and why their friendship ended. Exploration of sexuality is being reflected by the behaviors of adolescents for example accepted as heterosexual normative behavior: harassing females at pool, watching porn. Even negated the homosexual antithesis: walking and talking after bar, and male on male sexual encounter. Mostly I stayed in the basement, terrified that I would end up abnormal, a fucking pato, but he was my best friend and back then that mattered to me more than anything. (Diaz 104). Growing up in a very hypermasculine culture, heterosexuality is an essential part of what it means to be a man. Beto being gay, breaks the one biggest belief of masculinity and because Beto was Yunior's role model, Beto has a huge influence on Yunior's identity. This memory indicates that Yunior felt immensely betrayed by Beto's actions because they changed and upended the nature of their friendship and made Yunior question his understanding of the deepest parts of himself. (

Yunior says that back then his friendship with Beto mattered more than anything, reveals that due to Beto's actions, he made a flat-out choice to cut Beto out of his life. If Yunior were to accept Beto and his sexuality he would have to reconsider the meaning of masculinity and he wasn't going to do that. Even after the second encounter, Yunior freezes and is stuck between pleasing Beto and his discomfort. Both were very confused and not on the same page. Beto saw their encounter as an intimate one and Yunior felt noting but discomfort and betrayal. After this encounter, Yunior and Beto become more distant. Yunior also shows social emotional displacement. Yunior is also feeling like he is drowning in real life. The pool and the title of this short story symbolizes a lot. I can still go far without coming up.

While everything above is loud and bright, everything below is whispers. (Diaz 93). As he gets older, the pool starts to mean something different. When he was younger, he would come to be with his friends and have fun. But now, he sees the pool as a place to escape his life and all the noise. Yunior feels like he is drowning in all his personal issues and his fears. He is overwhelmed and not sure what he wants in life. Junot Diaz sarcastically driven first person narrative through a young male Latino as the attitude toward the world that he occupies. These days my guts feel loose and cold and I want to be away from here. He won't have to show me his Desert Eagle, or flash the photos of skinny Filipino girls sucking dick. He'll only have to smile and name the place and I'll listen. (Diaz 100-101). All the times he would refuse to hear what the recruiter had to say, now he hopes that opportunity would come again.

Despite everything going on his own life, he still cares for this mother and has a good relationship with her. The television plays a big role with relationship Yunior has with his mom. It's the one way they have interaction, them watching shows together gives them the opportunity to enjoy each other's time without the pressure of talking. They can escape and ignore what is going on in their life to watch a novela. The exploration of sexuality, social displacement and the past/future play big themes in Drown. Yunior senses he is stuck in life. Everyone one is trying to stay between social norms of a heterosexual society. When an issue arises and one is confronted, one may detach themselves from their loved ones, like Yunior. They may even feel like they too are drowning and cannot come up.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Summary of a Novel Drown by Junot Diaz. (2019, Aug 20). Retrieved from

Summary of a Novel Drown by Junot Diaz essay
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