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A Study of The Theme of Machismo and Masculinity in Junot Diaz's Novel Drown

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Masculinity revolves amongst most societies, and has been passed down from generation to generation. In Latino culture gender roles have been set by society and have ultimately held men as superior to women. In the novel Drown by Junot Diaz, the author portrays in two of the stories “Fiesta” and “Drown” how the protagonist, Yunior, becomes influenced by the messages he receives on intersectionality along with masculinity and machismo Diaz reveals how men are influenced to follow masculine norms and are literally “drowned” with masculinity. These examples set by the world surrounding Yunior forces him to act the way a “man” should. In this collection of short stories,”men” are associated with showing dominance over women, embracing their strong masculine pride, and displaying firm prejudice against homosexual people.

The protagonist’s older brother, Rafa, sets an example of how a man should behave by constantly making improper remarks involving women. In “Fiesta”, Rafa expresses “ It’s the only pussy you’ll ever get,” conveying how he is already making inappropriate comments to Yunior, despite how young age (Diaz 31). The audience can see the clear, masculinity in Rafa’s words, as he uses the word “pussy” to refer to having sexual intercouse with a female. Nonetheless, Rafa continues to exemplify his masculinity in this short story by wanting to have an interaction with Leti and Mari. At this point, the reader can infer how Yunior starts to express his masculinity as later mentions “ Leti had some serious tetas and I could tell that my brother was going to gun for her (Diaz 32).” Yunior starts to show how he expresses the message he receives from Rafa about women. The protagonist could not possibly have that dirty mind about women at such a young age. Rafa’s remarks lead Yunior to start thinking about women in a sexual manner. At the same time, Rafa demonstrates gender roles to Yunior by presenting women as to be less than men through his terminology. The manner Rafa expresses about women causes Yunior to start thinking of them very similarly.

Yunior’s father vividly illustrates his masculinity and maschismo through his actions, which impact the protagonist’s definition on what it is to be a man. In “Fiesta”, from the very start the audience is informed about Yunior’s father’s disloyalty to his wife. The protagonist’s mother is continuously mistreated and oppressed by his father throughout the trajectory of the story. The father’s dominance is best viewed when he says “He ain’t eating” and Yunior point out “ Mami pretended to help Rafa with the pernil (Diaz 37).” This shows how his father dominates and constrains Yunior’s mother of her voice. The father’s machismo, along with his masculinity, presents an example to follow for the protagonist. During the party Yunior starts to think about his mom and how she used to be happy. He mentions, “ Suddenly I wanted to go over and hug her, for no other reason than I loved her, but there were about eleven fat jiggling bodies between us (Diaz 41-42). Yunior undoubtedly loves his mother, yet, it seems his strong masculine pride impedes him from going over and expressing his feelings for her. The audience can conclude that the “ eleven fat jiggling bodies” represents an obstacle for Yunior in displaying his love for her. He instead internalizes the sudden urge of showing affection to his mother as he essentially has absorbed the message of masculinity his father has given off. The protagonist refuses to express his great love for his mother in front of everyone, if it were otherwise, he simply would have gone up to do it.

Yunior’s masculine behavior along machismo begins to be viewed more in “ Drown” as he is now older. Yunior starts to present himself as the man in charge of the household and has asserted dominance over his beloved mother. When the protagonist walks in on her mother talking on the phone with his father, he says “ I walk in on her and hang up the phone. That’s enough, I say” (Diaz 101). Yunior expresses his masculinity by asserting himself as the man of the house and wants to be the new provider for his mother. Now with his father out of the picture, it appears as if Yunior wants his mother to depend on him now. The audience views another sign of Yunior’s masculinity when he argues with his mother about Beto looking for him. He becomes angry and replies, “ She notices the tightening of my arms.” displaying his power and attempting to assert his authority over her (Diaz 95). His masculinity is seen as he does not want to have anything with Beto after his sexual incident with him. Yunior also displays machismo as he portrays how he is the one in charge and she has to keep shut. He demonstrates his idea of women’s position in society by illustrating he has authority over hers. His father’s past messages of authority over women have forged the protagonist to become this way with his mother.

The protagonist homophobia becomes an issue when he finds out his best friend, Beto, reveals himself as to be gay. As a young child, Yunior received messages on women by his brother Rafa as readers can refer back to “Fiesta”. His brother would make sexual remarks about women and this caused Yunior to think like him. This results in Yunior growing up with a strong prejudice against homosexuals. At the very start of “Drown”, Yunior uses the insulting term “pato” to refer to Beto and this shows his homophobia.Yunior recounts, “ Mostly I stayed in the basement, terrified that I would end up abnormal, a fucking pato, but he was my best friend and back then that mattered to me more than anything” and shows the audience how much he was against being queer, but he cared more about his friendship (Diaz 104). However, Yunior’s homophobia remains present and their friendship ends after sharing an explicit moment together. Yunior states “ We sat in front of his television, in our towels, his hands bracing against my abdomen and thighs” (Diaz 105). That moment leads Yunior to become terrified and leads him to not want to communicate with Beto any longer. Yunior wants to disassociate himself from Beto for being gay to reassure his own sexual preference. The constant insults directed to gay men he makes throughout the story are simply a way of him illustrating his masculinity. His strong masculine pride causes him to view homosexuals as not to be real “men” .

The intersectionality of class and masculinity place an impact on Yunior’s idea on what a man really is all about. In “Fiesta”, Yunior points out about his father’s car, “ Brand-new, lime-green and bought to impress (Diaz 27). The author portrays the relation between class and masculinity through the father’s van to reveal the message that Yunior receives about being a man. Yunior mentions the van was “bought to impress” and relates to masculinity by how men tend to like “showing off”. The vans bright color only draws more attention to people and helps cause an impression for the father on women. Automobiles are usually associated with masculine men, and to catch the attention of women. The reader can conclude how the van is associated with Yunior’s father’s mistress. According to Adultery and the Immigrant Narrative by Natalie Friedman, “The van, a symbol of the family’s rising prosperity in the US, is a source of pride for the father, but a nuisance to Yunior, whose sensitive stomach is a figurative barometer of his family’s troubles: as their prosperity grows, so, too, does his parents’ marital discord” (Friedman 12). The quote explains how Yunior is affected by the van as it is a symbol of disparity in his family for him. However, the van itself seems to cause him to feel the pressure of class and masculinity and leads for him to feel uncomfortable in it. The father’s message on class and masculinity pressure the protagonist, and reveals how he negotiates with it by throwing up each time he rides the car.

Yunior’s definition of being man is greatly influenced by many of his father’s past actions in the past as the reader may acknowledge in “Drown”. The protagonists presented the message he receives about masculinity along with class when he takes his mother to the mall to shop. Yunior mentions, “ When we arrive at the mall I give her fifty dollars… hating the image I have of her, picking through the sale bins, wrinkling everything…my father would give her a hundred dollars at the end of each summer” (Diaz 96-97) this illustrates to the reader his interpretation of being a man . Yunior demonstrates that his father’s example of giving money to his mother, influences him to do the same. As a “man”, Yunior believes he should support his mother with money and provide for her now that his father is out of the picture. He presents a classic example of manliness by setting himself up as the provider for his home. Besides masculinity, this quote also shows the intersection of class that Yunior expresses by not wanting to see his mother shop at the sale section. Although they do not have much money, the protagonist refuses to see his mother shop at the clearance section, consequently, gives her money. The audience can vividly see the intersectionality between class and masculinity and how Yunior portrays it at the mall with his mother.

All throughout the text Yunior is constantly overwhelmed with messages of what it is to be a man. Diaz portrays how the protagonist receives the messages of intersectionality between masculinity, machismo, and class, and uses them to define himself on what a man should be in society. In “Fiesta” and “Drown”, Yunior demonstrates how he expresses his definition being masculine ,and provides the reader with a depiction on how the junction of many factors lead him to become the way he is. The author reveals how masculinity in society continues to prosper as the world surrounding us revolves around it. Just like Yunior, males are raised and influenced to embrace masculine pride and often serves as a pressure to define themselves as men in society.

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A Study Of The Theme Of Machismo And Masculinity In Junot Diaz’s Novel Drown. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from
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