Junot Díaz

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Themes and Colors
Intimacy and Estrangement Theme Icon
Sexuality and Masculinity Theme Icon
Escape and Belonging Theme Icon
Past vs. Present  Theme Icon
Physical Ability  Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Drown, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Intimacy and Estrangement

In “Drown,” Junot Díaz suggests that intimacy can be both protective and limiting. While Yunior’s close and often codependent relationships with his mother and Beto at first provide him with stability and structure for his life, they sour as he grows. His relationship to his mother limits his growth by keeping him in his childhood role, and the intimacy of his friendship with Beto betrays him when Beto sexually violates Yunior. Furthermore, his close relationships…

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Sexuality and Masculinity

As a young man, Yunior learns by example. He often compares himself to both his father and Beto, highlighting the masculine traits of theirs that he most admires and even fears. The lessons he learns from his everyday interactions with these two men show that Yunior has a somewhat inflexible, performative, and often destructive concept of what it means to be a man.

For example, Yunior avidly describes his and Beto’s early shoplifting days…

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Escape and Belonging

In “Drown,” home is both a place to belong to and to escape from. Yunior and Beto both live in New Jersey and are the sons of working-class Dominican immigrants. Their bonds with their families and communities are indelible, and yet both boys struggle with a desire to escape and excel beyond the circumstances of their upbringing. Ultimately, however, Beto’s sexuality forces him to think beyond his community and gives him the momentum to leave…

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Past vs. Present

“Drown” travels frequently (and often jarringly) between past and present narration. Disillusioned with his adult friends, job, and living situation, Yunior uses his memories to gain strength from his younger self, whom he views as stronger, funnier, and less bothered by his lack of ambition or direction. However, despite his best efforts, Yunior cannot draw a clean line between his past and present selves, largely because Beto’s friendship and painful betrayal were critical parts…

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Physical Ability

Within the machismo culture in which Yunior grew up, there is an immense amount of importance placed on physical prowess. Yunior’s strength and physical fitness are how he measures up to and distinguishes himself from men like Beto and his father. In addition, in the absence of strong intellectual ability, ambition, or a college education, physical ability is the single attribute that Yunior could use to leave New Jersey, since it could enable him…

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