The short story has drastically changed from the plot-oriented cartoon of which Edgar Allen Poe formally defined, in 1842, as an artistic composition controlled to produce a single unified effect. This new form of the short story is characterized by its use of seemingly real characters in likely situations as we have seen authors such as Ernest Hemingway create. The modern short story has moved even further away from plot, more so than Hemingway and his contemporaries, and now deals almost entirely with character and social issues. The short story continues to incorporate zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, in its creation of characters, conflict, and setting. Jaquira Díaz’s short story, Section 8, is an example of the modern short story and how it focuses more on the character than on the plot.
Section 8 serves as a commentary on how society shapes who we are as individuals. To explicate the idea that society defines us, Section 8 uses a current controversial issue within our own culture: the acceptance of homosexual relations. The main character, Nena, was raised in Normandy Park, a rough neighborhood near Miami Beach. In her neighborhood, she is known as a “hardass” who is in and out of juvenile delinquency centers for theft and assault. Nena has a rough exterior due in part to her alcoholic mother’s neglect as well as to her peers and the way in which society views those living in her underprivileged neighborhood. Her community has such a huge influence on who she is that when they begin to cast negative judgment on the homosexual community she can’t help but mirror their feelings even though se does not agree with them.
In the story, a murderer known as “The Strangler” is plaguing Miami Beach. The Strangler preys on the successful gay men of the area. He strangles them and leaves them nude in the most undesirable places. While riding the bus home from school a few of Nena’s classmates got on the bus. Nena pretended to ignore them as they made comments like, “I was crossing the street and I saw two of them holding hands. Nasss-ty.” and “The Strangler’s just cleaning up the city. Doing us all a favor.” Nena has feelings for her best friend, Boogie, who everyone knows as being a lesbian. Nena is conflicted by her emotions for Boogie and her desire to fit into her society.
Nena chooses to please her society rather than herself or Boogie. Since Boogie is openly queer, the students begin tormenting her. At school, the boys spray derogatory terms on her locker as Nena just watches. It is not until Boogie appears that we become aware of the choice Nena has made. “I thought I should hug her, say, ‘Fuck those assholes. They don’t know you.’ But I didn’t. I didn’t say one word. Just turned and walked away.” Later in the story, Boogie is surrounded by a group of their male classmates. Again, Nena stands idly by. It isn’t until Nena realizes that they are spraying Boogie with bleach does she intervene. The people around her directly influenced...