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America is said to be a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, and this unique aspect of American society has a large impact in many people’s childhoods. One such person, author Junot Díaz, wrote the short story The Money, published in 2011 in the New Yorker. In this short story, Díaz utilizes a childish tone combined with formal and academic diction to create a unique perspective of a childhood experience when their apartment was “burglarized”. The author’s frequent use of slangs and childish language successfully uses pathos to appeal to readers’ emotions, but the story is also written with scholarly diction that obviously reflects the author’s high level of education. This conflict in diction is intended by the author to depict a unique perspective of life as a young Dominican Immigrant, and the journey of growth to become a successful author, once again appealing to readers’ emotions.
In this piece, the author first sets the stage by describing the tight financial conditions he and his family felt growing up, and then goes on to tell the story of when his family came back from a “vacation”, only to discover the apartment was burglarized. However, the items stolen were not typical of a burglary, which led the author to suspect his two friends had committed the crime. In the end, his suspicions were confirmed, and the author decided to steal back the money and returns it to his mother.
Throughout this piece, there is an interesting conflict on the author’s diction. In particular, the author chooses to heavily utilize slangs and childish language in an otherwise formal and scholarly piece. For example, the author refers to his mother as “Mami” and refers to his two friends as “dopes” and “Stupid Morons”. This childish diction is inconsistent with the rest of the story, but it was intentional by the author to make the story more realistic and authentic. By using casual language like slangs, the author manages to effectively tie the story back to his roots as a poor Dominican Immigrant. This kind of language appeals to the readers’ emotions as it allows the reader to engage and relate to the author’s childhood. Through the use of slangs, the author is able to build sympathy as readers can associate this childish diction with growing up in and environment where the level of education was lower and where many experienced financial hardships, like the author’s family.
Although the piece does have slangs and childish language layered in, the majority of this piece reflects the author’s high level of education and knowledge through the use of precise, educated, and scholarly vocabulary. One example is in the first paragraph of the story, as the author was describing the purpose of the remittances, Díaz writes, “They were alone down there and those remittance, beyond material support, were a way, I suspect, for Mami to negotiate the absence, the distance caused by our diaspora” (Díaz 111). The choice of the word “diaspora” here is very interesting. The choice of this word evokes a strong emotion of separation and creates a feeling of nostalgia for readers. The author states that these remittances were but a way to alleviates this feeling of missing home, which once again allows readers to relate to what the author experienced in his childhood as an immigrant in the US.
The author creatively writes this story in two conflicting dictions, with one being formal and scholarly, and the other being childish and casual. This juxtaposition between the diction chosen by the author is precisely what makes Díaz’s perspective unique. The slangs and childish language used is the author’s way of reflecting on his childhood as a poor Dominican immigrant living in a rather unsafe environment that did not provide Díaz with much opportunity for a quality education. Then the rest of the story is written with an educated diction that reveals the author’s wide vocabulary and writing prowess. This sharp contrast appeals to the readers’ emotions as Díaz shows that it is possible to overcome your difficulties and achieve something that may be unattainable, creating a feeling of hope and accomplishment in readers.
This short story by author Junot Díaz is unique in that it heavily appeals to pathos by invoking feelings of sympathy through using more casual and childish language. But the piece is largely written in a very academic language. This conflict in diction not only serves to establish the author’s high level of education, but the contrast in diction throughout the story also creates a unique perspective that highlights the author’s growth from a young Dominican immigrant in a rough neighborhood to an established author. This story was just a minor piece in his childhood, but these small moments are what makes up Diaz’s experiences as an immigrant in America’s melting pot.
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