In defining a frame of reference, it is necessary to explore the morals, values and customs in which the stories exist. Drown is a series of short stories by Junot Diaz, whose stories take place either in The Dominican Republic or New Jersey. His subjects are poor, struggling immigrant families, dominated, ironically by a male presence whereas, in fact, one of the main problems for these families is the absence of husbands and fathers. As role models are basically non-existent, the children and emerging adults struggle to define themselves. Even, as revealed in Drown, the fifth story, "The heat in the apartments was like something heavy that had come inside to die." The reader feels the heat and simultaneously the oppressive environment in which Yunior lives.
In choosing Drown and Boyfriend as the stories for comparison, it is possible to delve into Yunior's thoughts and confusion and understand his problems. In Drown, he is acutely aware of his mother's lack of communication and her refusal or ability to improve her own situation. Yunior reveals an acute self-awareness throughout.
She's so quiet that most of the time I'm startled to find her in the apartment. I'll enter a room and she'll stir, detaching herself from the cracking plaster walls, from the stained cabinets, and fright will pass through me like a wire. She has discovered the secret to silence.
As a thesis statement, consider elements such as how the lack of communication in both stories contributes to the unsatisfactory situations that exist. Note how Yunior's efforts in Boyfriend do reveal some hope and that communication is a basic element of success. A question is often a useful way to approach a thesis:
In a neglected and disadvantaged "neighborhood," is it even possible to communicate with someone so similar in background and so desperate in circumstance but so far removed in sentiment and hope for the future, away from "the dump?"
This statement is applicable to both stories and includes the frame of reference (how poverty perpetuates poverty) and the elements of communication or lack thereof. Yunior considers whether there is any hope for a brighter future outside of the neighborhood for him because he has "no promises elsewhere," revealing his lack of confidence which is also apparent in Boyfriend as he observes Boyfriend and Girlfriend:
People like these were Untouchables to me, raised on some other planet and then transplanted into my general vicinity to remind me how bad I was living.
Expectations are also very prevalent in these two stories as Yunior expects his father to disappoint his mother, expects his mother to still hanker after his father and expects Boyfriend to disappoint - and cheat - on Girlfriend. The elements of the typical male figure that consistently disappoints is very noticeable to Yunior. Even his best friend, Beto, is now far removed from him, Yunior accepting his sexual persuasion as a "pato" (homosexual) and the reader gets the impression that it is a resigned acceptance, as if Yunior is not really good enough for anyone in Drown. In support of this, in Boyfriend, Yunior thinks of Loretta and how he now has "heart-leather like walruses got blubber." Again the reader is inclined to think that Yunior thinks he is unworthy.
All Diaz's stories reveal the often hopelessness of immigrants who think that life will be transformed and who struggle with their identity whether it be in their former home and country or in their adopted homeland.