‘The Sun, The Moon, The Stars’ by Junot Diaz

Diaz, Junot 1998

The Sun, The Moon, The Stars by Junot Diaz, 1998

The magic trick:

Giving Yunior, the first-person narrator, the perfect blend of wisdom and confusion

So, here we have a story of a failed relationship told by someone after the relationship has ended. This narrator ought to have a pretty good sense of wisdom about what went wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple in this story.

Yunior, the first-person narrator, does have some things figured out. He gives the reader some remarkable insights here and there about how, looking back, even when things in the relationship were good, maybe they weren’t that good; maybe they were too comfortable, etc. What is notable, though, is how much Yunior still doesn’t understand.

Consider that Diaz starts the story by having his narrator say, “I’m not a bad guy.” It is as if he is on the defensive before the reader has even had a chance to accuse him of anything. Diaz then ends the story in the middle of a conversation with Yunior and his girlfriend, Magda. Yunior desperately pleads, “This can work. All we have to do is try.” At start and conclusion, Yunior is trying to convince himself of something. He can’t represent this relationship in any kind of realistic way. He isn’t in a position of wisdom at all. He is still confused and coming to grips with the entire episode.

Certainly, we all know that feeling. We’ve likely all been in that position before. It’s pretty common to human experience. I don’t know that it’s a point of view that is often represented in literature though. Certainly not this well. And that’s quite a trick on Diaz’s part.

The selection:

Anyway I won’t bore you with what happens after she finds out. The begging, the crawling over glass, the crying. Let’s just say that after two weeks of this, of my driving out to her house, sending her letters, and calling her at all hours of the night, we put it back together. Didn’t mean I ever ate with her family again or that her girlfriends were celebrating. Those cabronas, they were like, No, jamás, never. Even Magda wasn’t too hot on the rapprochement at first, but I had the momentum of the past on my side. When she asked me, Why don’t you leave me alone? I told her the truth: It’s because I love you, mami. I know this sounds like a load of doo-doo, but it’s true: Magda’s my heart. I didn’t want her to leave me; I wasn’t about to start looking for a girlfriend because I’d fucked up one lousy time.

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