As the title would suggest, “Drown” uses water to symbolize how the pleasures of Yunior’s youth—including swimming—contribute to a growing sense of confinement as he ages. Yunior’s narrative revolves around his neighborhood pool, which is initially the fun destination of his adolescent summer nights with Beto. Surrounded by a plastic fence that is (increasingly) hard to climb, the pool is a sacred space of adolescent freedom where Yunior and Beto are able to establish their brotherhood and where Yunior can go in his later years to find the stillness, quiet, and solitude that he cannot get at home. However, throughout the story, the pool takes on a more negative cast. It is an intimate and sometimes scarily exposed space: Yunior and Beto watch neighborhood boys pull off a teenage girl’s bikini top, undressing her without her consent. Similarly, Both of Beto’s sexual advances happen after the two boys have been swimming, so they are already in intimate proximity and in various stages of undress both physically and emotionally. As the pool becomes associated with the difficulties of adulthood, rather than their carefree childhood romps, it parallels the other aspects of Yunior’s life that were once comfortable and are now perhaps stifling: living in his mother’s house, for example, or shoplifting once the legal consequences become clear. Despite the pool’s growing negative associations, Yunior can’t seem to shake free of it: the water still provides him solace and comfort, even if it is through adult solitude instead of youthful companionship.
The Pool Quotes in Drown
I can still go far without coming up. While everything above is loud and bright, everything below is whispers.
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.