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Jake Becker
Professor Lewis
English 2600
3 July 2016
Unity of Understanding: Junot Diaz
The Unity of Effect, which was a theory about composition presented by Edgar Allan Poe
reflects the overarching feeling or idea that the author is attempting to achieve from their
literature. Poe believed that this effect should be what is emphasized in every work of art, for
without it there is no connection. This effect can only have validity if it is visible to the person
who is experiencing the art. In Junot Diaz`s short story How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl,
Whitegirl, or Halfie, taken from his book Drown, I believe there is an attempt to create this
concept through the composition of the text. The main literary elements at work to achieve this
are voice and setting. From engaging in this text, I was able to sift out the overall emotional
tones and views that the author is attempting to cultivate from his reader. To me empathy is the
driving ideal that is being conveyed. This feeling is constructed through the internal and external
forces shown in this work. This is made evident in the story and establishes the message, which
is the story we tell ourselves rationalizes our circumstance. This is evident when one is able to
look at the text`s elements at work.
Since voice and setting are the main elements displayed, I believe that the story is
created from a psychological standpoint of the character and its relation to their surroundings.
The creation of circumstances which envelop the main character cause them to create a
blueprint in which they can best operate in their given reality. This reality which is given multiple
dynamics is reflected by different girls the character is trying to hang out with and their
socioeconomic status. This gives the story complexity and removes any binary views in my
opinion. The girls also show how the character views themselves in relation. An example of this

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from the text is how he decides what to do with the government issued cheese. If the girl`s from
the Terrace stack the boxes behind the milk. If she's from the Park or Society Hill hide the
cheese. This example begins to provide structure for our unity effect. We began to have
empathy for the character given how they have to hide aspects of their life that might be
seemed as negative by their environment. We also understand given the circumstances about
how they are rationalizing their actions.
We began to see how these girls reflect the setting which attempts to showcase the
message which the author is attempting to evoke. White girls are considered the most valued.
They reflect the favored values of the setting and this dictates how the character operates as
well as how they view themselves in comparison. An example from the text which highlights this
and supports our unity of effect is. Tell her that you love her hair, that you love her skin, her lips,
because, in truth, you love them more than you love your own. This evokes an empathetic
feeling for the character, one sees how given the circumstance of their environment that they
have a certain view of the world which they are attempting to rationalize. Understanding is felt
in terms of why this character is pursuing white girls, because they represent something which
he feels he is lacking and wants to attain. Again we see how the setting provides his voice with
rationalization about himself. The setting and archetype relating to the white girl, is something
that is not authentic to the character, but given the environment he is in he believes that the
ideals associated with it are what he should aspire for.
The other aspect of setting and voice, which the character is more attuned with is
channeled through his views of homegirls. These girls are from the same area as him and
resonate closet to his authentic self. We can see this by how the character views them and
interacts with them. If the girl`s local, don't sweat it. She`ll flow over when she's good and
ready. We start to see the ease in which the character operates with this girl which represents
an authentic concept to him. He doesn't feel the need to stress over the situation involving her

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too much because he has more of an emphatic view to it. He doesn't have to manipulate his
psychology to align with his setting. Another example from the text that shows this evidence is,
A local girl wont need stories about the neighborhood but the other ones might. The archetype
of this girl and setting is one that cultivates understanding of the character. There seems to also
be more romanticism involved with his view of homegirls. Sometimes the girl wont flow over at
all..she`ll say sorry, smile and you'll be stupid enough to to believe her and ask her out again
We see that the character has some affinity to this authentic archetype and from that he is
willing to do whatever to make the situation work.
As we have seen the previous two archetypes of girls, the white girl and the homegirl
represents the polarities of the main characters voice as well as the setting. For the author to
fully integrate the the complexity within the dichotomy of the circumstance, as well as the main
characters psyche, he introduces the halfie which is half black and white. This girl reflects the
internal and external conflict which resides in the character as well as the setting. There seems
to be a reflection in the interaction between the character and the halfie which shows that both
of them do not approve of their black side. For the main character its from the text, Hide the
pictures of yourself with an Afro. We also see another example where the character is glorifying
the white side of himself over the black. Run a hand through your hair like the white boys do,
even though the only thing that runs easily through your hair is Africa. This self-consciousness
towards that side is also shown with how the halfie views herself. I hate my tits,.I don't like
anyone touching my hair. This becomes external for her as well in the text, Black people, she
will say, treat me real bad. Thats why I don't like them. As we can see there is an internal and
external perception of black as bad, both of these characters possess these traits and attempt
to rationalize it or hide it. This begins to bring forth the effect of empathy about the situation as
well as support our thesis.

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Another definitive situation from the text which highlights the plight of the main
characters experience in his setting is manifested through his interactions with the bully of his
block. This encounter provides us with more understanding and empathy towards the character.
Hey Junior, is that your new fuckbuddy? Let him talk. Howie weighs about two hundred pounds
and could eat you if he wanted. We see through this situation that the main character is in an
environment that requires him to be on alert and defensive. He again rationalizes through the
element of voice about the circumstance of his setting.
Another situation that may not be as notable in this text given that it focuses on the
characters interactions with girls, is his family situation. This is definitive in creating his
perception of the world. I believe that there is internal pride for his dominican nationality, but this
is overshadowed by how that fits into the culture he is in. Examples of this is when he tells a girl
about tear gas. Dont tell her your moms knew right away what it was, that she recognized its
smell from the year the United States invaded your island. There is underlying respect and
love for his mother given that the passage begins and ends with him telling himself to put the
cheese back where it belongs or else is mom be irate.
After seeing these archetypes of ideals regarding the setting, as well as the effect they
have on the voice of the protagonist. We begin to have a foundation which supports the Unity of
Effect which resides in the text. We have empathy for the characters and their circumstance as
well as understanding for why they operate within certain thought patterns.
The interaction between voice and setting is everywhere in this short story. We see how
given the circumstances and situations that this character is involved in, and how they
rationalize it through their voice. Junot Diaz takes a situation that most would view as pleasureseeking and selfish, and turns it into a template in which we can extrapolate broad social as well
as psychological themes. From this we are able to have empathic understanding for the
situation in which the character is involved in and see a broader picture of the paradigm that

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they inhabit. Diaz`s writing style infuses with the elements of voice and setting to create a lighthearted perception of the situation. The attempt is to not make the reader feel sorry for anyone
in the story. He takes position and makes it relatable to everyone who has had to alter
themselves to their environment. The Unity of Effect from this piece is one that removes the
binary perception and replaces it with a better understanding of the human condition and how
we all are just attempting to find our place in this world and be as close to our authentic selves
as possible.