The first-person narrator and protagonist Yunior, in the comic tale of infidelity “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” is someone with whom we could easily see Junot Díaz himself growing up. He is a young Latin American man whose street talk lexicon includes words like homegirl and loot and is peppered with Spanish terms such as abuelo and hija. However, there is nothing ordinary about the beautiful way in which Díaz assembles these common words:
I’d tell you about the sea. What it looks like after it’s been forced into the sky through a blowhole. How when . . . [I] see it like this, like shredded silver, I know I’m back for real . . . I’d tell you about the traffic: the entire history of late-twentieth-century automobiles swarming across every fl at stretch of ground, a cosmology of battered cars, battered motorcycles, battered trucks and battered buses, and an equal number of repair shops, run by any fool with a wrench. (19)
In “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” our narrator, Yunior, finds his relationship in trouble when his girlfriend, Magda, receives a letter from Cassandra describing the affair she is having with Yunior. Yunior manages to win Magda back, although the relationship is never the same. Magda “didn’t want to sleep over as much or scratch my back when I asked her to. Amazing how you notice the little things. Like how she never used to ask me to call back when she was on the other line with someone” (17).
Yunior decides that a vacation to the Dominican Republic is the only way to redeem himself while rekindling his relationship, and Magda reluctantly agrees to go. After visiting some relatives in Santo Domingo, Yunior takes Magda to Casa de Campo, a ritzy “Resort That Shame Forgot” (21). To Yunior’s dismay, the resort does not fix his relationship as he and Magda fight as much at Casa de Campo as they did back in the States. In fact, their last night there, Magda decides she wants time alone. Yunior runs into two men he had met the day before: one who introduces himself only as The Vice President, and his bodyguard, Barbaro. The Vice President offers to show Yunior the birthplace of their nation, and he and Barbaro drive him out to the “Cave of the Jagua,” known to some as the mythical birthplace of the Taino and the Dominican Republic.
The Vice President and Barbaro lower Yunior into the cave by his ankles so he can have a look. While in the cave, a metaphor for beginnings, Yunior thinks back to the start of his relationship with Magda. “And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning it’s the end” (28). Yunior fl ashes forward five months and explains that he and Magda have broken up and that he is dating someone new. He ends the story thinking back to his last night at Casa de Campo, acknowledging, on some level, his foolishness. “I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to finish by showing you what kind of fool I am. When I returned to the bungalow that night, Magda was up for me. Was packed. Looked like she’d been bawling. ‘I’m going home tomorrow,’ she said. I sat down next to her, took her hand. ‘This can work,’ I said. ‘All we have to do is try’ ” (28).
“The Sun, the Moon, the Stars” is a story of ironies and contradictions. The title itself might give a reader the impression that the text has a romantic or idyllic quality. However, by the middle of the story Díaz describes his failing relationship as not being “the sun the moon and the stars” (25). The narrator himself, while funny and charming, is full of contradictions and ultimately his own worst enemy. In the first line of the story he tells us, “I’m not a bad guy” (15) and proceeds to explain how he cheated on his girlfriend. He is also unreliable, contradicting himself in saying that Cassandra was not advertising falsely about her sexual prowess, while telling Magda that she was lousy in bed. He tells us how nice Magda is, that you could not think of anyone worse to wrong than she, yet that is exactly what he does.
The kind of first-person contradictory, unreliable narrator Díaz creates ensures that the reader only hears one side of the story, thus underscoring the ironies of the narrator’s words and actions. The director Sean San Jose adapted four short stories, “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars” among them, for a play he put on at Intersection for the Arts, in California. While Díaz was there for the opening night he described his short story to a San Francisco reporter. “It’s that universal experience of this guy of color, jammed up with his infidelity who can’t wrap his head around that he’s done anything wrong. He’s so busy trying to ‘unfix’ it and can’t relate to the fact that he’s deeply hurt someone” (Guthman 3).
Through Yunior’s follies Díaz shows us the contradictory sides of human nature. These contradictions teach us that we cannot fix a relationship with material things, but that a relationship must be repaired by the same virtues that built it: trust, commitment, and love.
Atkins, Christine. “Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat.” New York State Writers Institute—Writers Online 1, no. 3 (Spring 1999).
Díaz, Junot. “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars.” In The Best American Short Stories 1999, edited by Amy Tan and Katrina Kenison. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Guthmann, Edward. “It’s a Scary Time for Latin American Immigrants and Junot Díaz Feels the Pressure to Help.” San Francisco Chronicle, 22 April 2006.
Categories: Literature, Short Story
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