Junot Díaz’s Drown, a collection of short stories, chronicles the events of Yunior and his family. Each story focuses Yunior and his struggle growing up as a Dominican immigrant and finding a place for himself within American society. Throughout the progression of the novel, Yunior realizes the stereotypes placed on him and recognizes that being white is advantageous. Yunior’s experience growing up both in the Dominican Republic and the States has shaped his perspective on life and life choices.
Growing up poor in the Dominican Republic strongly influenced the choices Yunior makes later in his life. In “Aguantando” Yunior recalls about how poverty was a part of his life. Díaz writes, “We were poor. The only way we could have been poorer was to have lived in the campo or to have been Haitian immigrants…We didn’t eat rocks but we didn’t eat meat or beans either” (Díaz, 70). This depiction of Yunior’s early childhood sets the stage for what is to come. Yunior’s choices as an adolescent proves that he either chooses not to or cannot better his situation instead he turns to drugs and alcohol. Yunior’s decision to partake in drugs and alcohol shows that people in poverty have nothing to live for and just live for the next best thing.
Yunior’s encounter with drugs is first seen in “Aurora.” As a mean to help ease the financial burden on his mother, Yunior sells recreational drugs on the streets. It is a lucrative business that comes with repercussions. Yunior recollects that “Ten here, ten there, an ounce of weed for the big guy with the warts… Things around here aren’t like that yet, but more kids are dealing and bigger crews are coming in from out of town … We’re still making mad paper but it’s harder now and Cut’s already been sliced once …” (Díaz, 50-1). Yet drug dealing is a sure way to make a quick buck which is what Yunior needs. Another one of Yunior’s past times is to drink. He chooses to run to his current love interest, Aurora’s, home to drink beer and smoke heroine. To Yunior, drugs and alcohol are the most important things in his life at the moment because they offer temporary relief from his reality.
Another marker of Yunior’s poverty stricken state is that he used to shoplift. Yunior was a just kid wanting to push the limits, to him, stealing was a common occurrence. Yunior mastered the fine art of looting stores. “Our system was simple – we walked into a store with a shopping bag and came out loaded … The only trick was the exit. We stooped right at the entrance of the store and checked out some worthless piece of junk to stop people from getting suspicious” (Díaz, 97). Growing up poor, Yunior cannot afford much and resorts to looting and also looks to it as a recreational activity. Luckily he was eventually caught a set straight. Yunior’s choice of activities, again, illustrate that he has no motivation to better himself or his environment. He simply lives day by day with no future or long-term goals.
Yunior’s lack of...