The Television in “Drown” by Junot Diaz

In Junot Diaz’s  “Drown” the television seems to play a continuous role throughout the story.  In the first sentence, the story begins with the narrator watching TV: “My mother tells me Beto’s home, waits for me to say something, but I keep watching the TV” (1666).  The TV seems at times to mirror the life of the narrator, the event he’s describing or his state of mind.  He is trying to forget Beto and their history, immersing himself in the television programs when his mom mentions him.  The “families” of the neighborhood went out on their porches at night while “the glow from their TVs [washed] blue against the brick.”  This reflects the activities of the younger people during the nights as they swim in the pool.  The narrator and his mother watch television together, “Spanish-language news: drama for her, violence for me” (1668).  The horror of what is being shown on the television echoes the horror in the narrator’s past, a horror his mother wishes he will share with her but he refuses, continuing to ignore her and watches TV instead.  At another point in the story when the narrator is talking about being a “truant” he says he watches a lot of TV.  It seems like the television is also an escape from school, and later in the same passage, it was something that he did when he wasn’t hanging out with Beto, or when Beto was busy with his other friends.

Then the incident happened with Beto, while they were watching a porno on television.  While he was being molested, the narrator continues to watch the television, trying to pretend it isn’t happening.  Again, he is trying to escape his reality as something along the same lines as what is on the television is occurring in his life.  And the second time it happens, again, the narrator mentions the television, saying “[we] sat in front of the television…” (1672). Afterward, he has his “eyes closed and the television [is] on…” (1673).  He is trying to escape from where he is and what has happened.  The story ends with the narrator and his mother watching a “classic” Spanish dubbed movie on television. This movie reflects their lives; they are from the Dominican Republic living in New Jersey, a mix of English and Spanish like the movie.  But while watching the movie he and his mother become “friendly” (1673).  They share similar lives in the United States and have similar experiences which allows them to be close if only briefly.  The television acts as a way for the narrator to escape from his reality, yet what he sees on it only reinforces the problems he faces in his life and his experiences.

One thought on “The Television in “Drown” by Junot Diaz”

  1. I really liked your interpretation of the television’s reoccurrence in the story. It seems that the television is definitely a physical motif. I especially liked how you showed that the TV both allows the narrator to spend time with his mother and to avoid her at the same time: “The horror of what is being shown on the television echoes the horror in the narrator’s past, a horror his mother wishes he will share with her but he refuses, continuing to ignore her and watches TV instead.” You talk about how the TV is this source of escape for the narrator and a reflection of the events that occur in his own life, and I think this is a powerful insight because a “reflection” in a mirror is both yourself and not yourself at the same time. It’s like the TV allows him dissociate himself from what happens with Beto. I also think your post hints at a greater social critique of the media and modern technology.

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