In his short story Fiesta, 1980 Junot Diaz describes how deceit and pretence can ruin the life of a family and even inflict a psychological trauma on a child. This novella is told from the point of view of Yunior, a Dominican boy whose family settled in the United States.
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The author tries to show that deceit is abhorrent to a person and that only socialization makes him/her more tolerant to this kind of behavior. This is the idea that this paper will try to illustrate. In particular, it is necessary to such literary elements as the form of narrative, plot, and certainly conflict that the main character tries to resolve.
The writer prefers a first-person narrative in order to let the reader see the world through the eyes of a person who has yet to become accustomed to hypocritical relations between people. From various words like “flaca”, “tio”, or “tia1”, one can deduce that he comes from a family of Spanish-speaking immigrants (Diaz 2005, p. 95).
One can see that the parents struggle to maintain their relations. Yunior knows that his farther was unfaithful to his wife. Although, it is not explicitly stated by the author we can see that the protagonist does not tolerate this infidelity and associate it with untidiness or dirt.
For instance, he says, “we both knew that Papi had been with that Puerto Rican woman he was seeing and wanted to wash off the evidence quick” (Diaz 2005, p. 95). Yet, this remark seems to be very casual; one can be very surprised by his tone. Only later we understand that this casualness is just a way of concealing one’s feelings.
It should be noted that Yunior is torn between his devotion to his mother and his willingness to preserve the family. He tries to imagine his mother “without Papi” and it is very difficult for him to picture the family without the father (Diaz 2005, p. 105).
This boy has to resolve a moral dilemma which forces him to choose between the happiness of a family and truth. Yet, Junot Diaz also shows how this so-called happiness is nothing more than pretence. The readers can see that violence is not uncommon in their family and Yunior knows that his father can easily beat him without any pretext.
Moreover, the boy’s parents display no sign of affection toward each other. More likely, they do not want to show that there is no love between them. Yunior’s mother understands that there is something wrong with her son, but he is afraid of revealing this truth to her.
He hopes that everything will go “back to normal” in the family but at the same time he realizes that it is rather unlikely.
Junot Diaz strives to demonstrate that lie is abhorrent or even repulsive to a child. One should bear in mind that Yunior vomits each time when he is in the Volkswagen van that his father bought. His family attributes it Yunior’s poor health or even the upholstery.
Yet, Yunior knows that his father’s mistress could have been in this van, and this car continuously reminds this boy of his father’s infidelity. Again, his relatives do not understand the true of cause of these nausea fits.
Another issue which one cannot overlook is that these people do everything to pretend that their family is happy. For example, Yunior’s brother Rafa forbids him to criticize his father “in front of people”, even though his parent openly abuses his son prohibiting him to eat anything (Diaz 2005, p. 104).
His aunt also understands that violence frequently takes place in the house, but Yunior is reluctant to speak about it with her. Such a situation is common in many families in which one of the spouses proved to unfaithful to the spouse and it is virtually impossible for a child to cope with this experience.
As it has been said before, the protagonist strives to decide whether his mother should be told about her husband’s infidelity or not. In fact, the boy even dreams of his father being exposed in public. He wants to shout, “You are a cheater” (Diaz 2005, p. 105).
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Yet, fear or sense of helplessness prevent him from doing it. Again, one should remember that he may be reluctant to do it because he does not want to dishonor his parents.
At the end of the story, they drive home from the part, and Yunior begins to have a fit of nausea once again. But we do not know what exactly happened next. Maybe, the main protagonist finally plucked up his courage and told her mother the whole truth.
However, it is also quite possible that he preferred to withhold it from her hoping that their family would be saved in this way. Overall, Junot Diaz asks the readers to place themselves in the position of this boy and face the same dilemma that he faces. Even an adult can find it very difficult, while for a child it can prove to be almost insoluble.
Apart from that, in this short story the author illustrates how vulnerability can change the behavior of a person. Throughout the text, this boy uses a great number of swearwords, and at first glance it may seem that he is a very tough or harsh person.
However, Yunior’s narrative reveals that he always feels insecure and even weak, especially in those cases he is confronted with his father. Rudeness and foul language help him conceal his vulnerability from other people, especially from his mother and the two siblings.
This plot of this story is full of flashbacks. Yunior’s memories tell us about the circumstances which led to this tension in the family. These recollections are particularly important to the readers because they show how children attempted to get used to the presence of deceit in the family.
Yunior uses very interesting metaphor to explain it, “The affair was like a hole in our living room, one we’d gotten so used to circumnavigate that we sometimes forgot it was there” (Diaz 2005, p. 105). Still, this short story suggests that it is impossible to turn a blind eye to such problems.
This unvoiced discontent will eventually manifest itself some form or another, for example, in the form of family violence. Thus, by pretending that everything is normal, people can only postpone the disaster, but not avert it in any possible way.
Although Fiesta,1980 focuses primarily on the lives of Dominican immigrants in the United States, the questions that Junot Diaz explores can be relevant to any family. Marital infidelity can ruin the lives of children, especially if they understand that their parents no longer love one another.
Yet, in this work the author primarily focuses on how a child confronts and perceives deceit. At the beginning, the protagonist speaks about it in an almost casual tone, but later we can see that this affair deeply affected him, but he does not want to show that his feelings were hurt.
The main strength of this short story is that it enables us to understand the inner world of a child who has to confront such problems.
Diaz, J. Fiesta, 1980. In P. Shreve & B.M., Nguyen (Ed.), 30/30: thirty American stories from the last thirty years. NY: Pearson Longman.
1 Spanish words for thin, uncle, and aunt