“Drown” is a story in which characters rarely talk to one another about the things that matter most. Instead of talking directly about important subjects, they watch television together and remain in silence. Television, then, is a proxy for human interaction: it can be a barrier to communication, a bonding force in relationships where there isn’t much to be said, or a way to avoid dealing with uncomfortable issues. Yunior’s mother tells him Beto is home, for instance, Yunior does not answer because he is watching television, and when Yunior leaves Beto’s apartment after their second sexual encounter Beto keeps his eyes on the TV and doesn’t acknowledge Yunior’s departure (or the sexual violation that has just taken place). On the one hand, television is the primary way that Yunior and his mother interact and express affection, watching telenovelas together to create a safe and silent space to share each other’s company without the added pressure of speech of explanation. However, this same protective silence is inverted in Yunior’s relationship with Beto, in which the TV both facilitates and masks Beto’s unwanted sexual advances. Yunior keeps his eyes on the TV primarily to ignore what is being done to his body without his consent. In addition, Yunior spends most of his time watching television, and it often allows him to escape from the problems of his own life, immersing himself instead in the “violence” of the Spanish language news or a documentary at the local library.
Television Quotes in Drown
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.