Ysrael & Drown Handout

Drown by Junot Diaz Handout

discussion leaders: Pat Murphy and Iris Foley


About Diaz

-born in the Dominican Republic in 1968

-had a strained relationship with his father

-books include: Drown, This is How You Lose Her, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – won a Pullitzer Prize

-was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship

-teaches creative writing at MIT




Characters: Yunior, Rafa, Ysrael


1. Do you think that with his past of having a mostly fatherless childhood, was Diaz using this story and characters to show the importance of a father figure? Also based off what we learned in class and personal experiences, how important do you think a father figure is?

2. As touched on in Victor Vargas, if the father is absent do older brothers take over the role of the father? Then who becomes the father figure for the older brother? Will they just model themselves after the men around them?

3. Rafa was constantly making fun of Yunior and calling him a “pussy” if he was scared of doing something he knew he shouldn’t. Do you think Yunior only acted out to impress his brother and to impress the idea the boys had of their father? (a provider, a tough guy, living the American dream)

4. Why were the brothers so fascinated by Ysrael’s face? Did his deformed face make him inhuman, unmasculine?




Characters: Narrator, Mother, Beto


1. Why does the narrator avoid Beto? Do you think that he is ashamed of his sexuality and is trying to hide it? Is it because of social pressure like in Raising Victor Vargas?

2. The narrator seems to take care of his mother financially when his father is gone. Do you think he feels pressure to be the man of the house? Is that why he doesn’t want to join the army even though he knows it’s an escape?

3. The narrator is shocked by the sexual encounter with Beto the first time but allows it the 2nd time. He only shies away when he fears being caught – similar to his shoplifting habit, which he only stops doing when he’s caught. Do you think he doesn’t want to see Beto again when he comes back to town because he’s scared of another encounter?

4. Why did the narrator not want to read what Beto wrote in the book he gave him? Is he scared of developing feelings for Beto?

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