Drown

by

Junot Díaz

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The protagonist and narrator of Drown, Yunior is several years out of high school and still living with his mother in the small apartment in Edison, New Jersey in which he grew up. Yunior is on the cusp of adulthood, but he hasn’t taken on many adult responsibilities: he sells pot to pay the utility bill, parties with his friends, and his mother still cooks for him, does his laundry, and pays the rent. Yunior feels trapped in this life, but he notes that he never had much academic potential, so college didn’t seem like an option. While he would consider joining the army to escape his hometown, he hasn’t seen the army recruiter around in quite a while. Into his meditations on his stagnant life, Yunior weaves recollections of his adolescence, telling the story of the dissolution of his friendship with his best friend Beto, an academically-gifted, charismatic, and ambitious boy from the same apartment complex. Yunior used to look up to Beto’s suave confidence, but after Beto sexually assaulted Yunior twice during the summer before Beto left for college, their friendship fell apart. Through telling the story of this friendship, Yunior reveals that even though his life seems stagnant, he is grappling with crucial adult issues: his sense of betrayal, his confusion over what it means to be masculine, and his inability to imagine a life that is both possible and desirable, especially when what he knows is safe and comfortable.

Yunior Quotes in Drown

The Drown quotes below are all either spoken by Yunior or refer to Yunior. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead edition of Drown published in 1996.
Drown Quotes

He's a pato now but two years ago we were friends and he would walk into the apartment without knocking, his heavy voice rousing my mother from the Spanish of her room and drawing me up from the basement, a voice that crackled and made you think of uncles or grandfathers.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Yunior’s Mother, Beto
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

The heat in the apartments was like something heavy that had come inside to die. Families arranged on their porches, the glow from their TVs washing blue against the brick. From my family apartment, you could smell the pear trees that had been planted years ago…

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

I can still go far without coming up. While everything above is loud and bright, everything below is whispers.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Pool
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

He hated when I knew something he didn't. He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me under. He was wearing a cross and cutoff jeans. He was stronger than me and held me down until water flooded my nose and throat. Even then I didn't tell him; he thought I didn't read, not even dictionaries.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Beto
Related Symbols: The Pool
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

She has discovered the secret to silence: pouring café without a splash, walking between rooms as if gliding on a cushion of felt, crying without a sound. You have traveled to the East and learned many secret things, I've told her. You're like a shadow warrior.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Yunior’s Mother
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Both of us had seen bad shoplifters at work. All grab and run, nothing smooth about them. Not us. We idled out of the stores slow, like a fat seventies car.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Beto
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

“They don’t send you to jail for shoplifting. They just turn you over to your old man.”

Related Characters: Beto (speaker), Yunior, Yunior’s Father
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), The Recruiter
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

He knew a lot of folks I didn't—a messed-up black kid from Madison Park, two brothers who were into that N.Y. club scene, who spent money on platform shoes and leather backpacks. I'd leave a message with his parents and then watch some more TV. The next day he’d be out at the bus stop, too busy smoking a cigarette to say much about the day before.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Beto
Related Symbols: Television
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Beto
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

After I was done, he laid his head in my lap. I wasn’t asleep or awake but caught somewhere in between, rocking slowly back and forth the way surf holds junk against the shore, rolling it over and over.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), Beto
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

One teacher, whose family had two grammar schools named after it, compared us to the shuttles. A few of you are going to make it. Those are the orbiters. But the majority of you are just going to burn out. Going nowhere. He dropped his hand onto the desk. I could already see myself losing altitude, fading, the earth spread out beneath me, hard and bright.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker), The Teacher
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

The actors throw themselves around, passionate, but their words are plain and deliberate. It’s hard to imagine anybody going through life this way.

Related Characters: Yunior (speaker)
Related Symbols: Television
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Drown LitChart as a printable PDF.
Drown PDF

Yunior Character Timeline in Drown

The timeline below shows where the character Yunior appears in Drown. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Drown
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
When Yunior is home watching television, Yunior’s mother tells him that his old friend Beto is home... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
Yunior remembers that the summer before Beto went to college, the two boys were “raging”: stealing... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Yunior explains that Beto was “delirious” at the thought of leaving for college because he hated... (full context)
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
As he makes his way towards Beto’s apartment, Yunior remembers the ways that the two boys used to spend their summers together. During the... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
When he arrives at Beto’s apartment, Yunior is stirred from his memory. He puts his ear to the door, but only hears... (full context)
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
In spite of himself, Yunior makes his way towards the familiar racket at the local pool, assuming that Beto will... (full context)
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
When Yunior straightens up, he notices that he is one of the oldest people at the pool,... (full context)
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
Only mildly daunted by his relative age, Yunior dives into the water. Still a talented swimmer, he glides underwater for a long time... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
When Yunior comes up for air, he is comforted by the familiar signs of teenage mischief around... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Yunior explains that he still lives alone with his mother, and though she still pays the... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Returning from the pool, Yunior finds that his mother is still awake and he watches television with her. They settle... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Yunior’s mother is disappointed that he wasn’t able to find Beto, thinking that it is a... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
When Yunior’s mother tells Yunior that Beto also asked how he was doing, Yunior is angry and... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Over the weekend, Yunior’s mother asks him to take her to the mall. Yunior agrees, explaining that he sees... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Before they can go out, however, Yunior’s mother makes Yunior check every window latch in their house. Despite the fact that they... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Yunior notes that it is a special occasion when his mother decides to go out, and... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Yunior recognizes most of the kids on the bus to be teenagers that he sells to.... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
At the mall, Yunior gives his mother fifty-dollars to spend. He explains that, when he was younger, his father... (full context)
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Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
While his mother shops, Yunior tracks the same route through the mall that he and Beto used to at the... (full context)
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
Beto’s recklessness always made Yunior uneasy, worrying that the two might go to jail. Beto made fun of Yunior’s worry,... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Yunior recalls that his mother never suspected that he was shoplifting, even though he brought home... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Indeed, one day when shoplifting from the book store, Yunior and Beto get stopped by the store security guard asking to check their bag. Yunior... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
Without Beto’s friendship, Yunior now spends his evenings with his friends Alex and Danny, drinking at a sleepy bar... (full context)
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
In the mornings, Yunior explains that he always goes for a run behind his apartment. When he runs, Yunior... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
When Yunior returns from his run, he finds his mother whispering on the phone. She is on... (full context)
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Yunior remembers that he often skipped classes when he and Beto were in high school. Because... (full context)
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
Some nights, Yunior explains that he drives with Alex and Danny to New Brunswick to drink at bars... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Spurred by this, Yunior explains that the nature of his relationship with Beto abruptly changed the summer before he... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
As the two boys watched the video, Beto reached into Yunior’s pants and began to give him a hand job. He continued despite Yunior’s protest and... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
The day after Beto’s sexual advance, Yunior refuses to spend time with Beto, spending the day in the basement instead, terrified that... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Despite his feelings of hurt and confusion, Yunior still goes to the pool that night because Beto is still his best friend. After... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Confronted with the reality of Beto leaving for college, Yunior thinks back to a time when his high school teachers made his class watch the... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
After the second sexual encounter, Yunior sits in silence on Beto’s couch for a long time. Soon, he hears the hallway... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
The narrative returns to the present, weeks after Yunior went looking for Beto at the pool. Yunior explains that he believes he saw Beto... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
When Yunior gets home, he finds his mother cooking dinner. She shows him new t-shirts that she... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
The two sit down to watch a classic Spanish movie on TV and Yunior gives his mother the money that he earned for the day. She chastises him for... (full context)
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
As they watch the movie, Yunior’s mother takes his hand in hers. Near the end of the film, she falls asleep... (full context)