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Character Analysis Papi Behavioral Traits


Autobiographical works often cause public resonance and critics’ interest due to the personal nature of such stories and unique plots that took place in authors’ lives. Junot Díaz can be cited as an example of a writer whose books are largely imbued with the narration of personal experiences. His digest Drown includes several autobiographical short stories in which the author describes his childhood, relationships with family members, and other events (Díaz). Díaz’s characters are vivid and memorable, and one of them is the boy’s father whom he calls Papi. The overbearing and brutal man who tries to be the devoted head of the family is one of the controversial characters in the story of “Fiesta, 1980.” The purpose of this work is to analyze Papi’s image from the standpoint of behavioral characteristics, relationships with others, and the role in the boy’s life.

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Papi’s Behavioral Characteristics

When analyzing Papi’s behavior, one can note that his manner of interaction is categorical and domineering. This manifests itself in communication with close relatives particularly sharply, and since most of the story takes place within the author’s family, readers can draw a conclusion about the typical behavioral characteristics of the character. One of the properties inherent in Papi is uncontrollable aggression when communicating with children. When he lifts his son up by the ear, this is perceived as a natural phenomenon by family members and does not cause extreme anxiety for either the mother or the siblings. In addition, one of Papi’s unique rules is the prohibition for children to look into his eyes. This behavior is similar to that displayed by family tyrants who do not accept conditions or requests. Therefore, Papi’s aggressive image that manifests itself from the beginning of the narrative is his characteristic feature.

At the same time, when analyzing this character more deeply, one can pay attention to his hidden behavioral features. According to Ostman, one of the explanations for Papi’s desire for brutality is nostalgia for the home country from which he was forced to take his family (52). The boy’s father often demonstrates not strength itself but the potential ability to be strong, thereby hiding his feelings and compensating for anxiety with bravado. Thus, a detailed analysis helps understand that aggressive behavior with an emphasis on dominance is Papi’s attempt to maintain the image of a confident head of the family, and this is his only manner.

Relationships with Others

Papi shows his position as a brutal man not only in relation to loved ones but also when interacting with other people. The narrator notes his awareness of his father’s mistress, a Puerto Rican woman. This fact can be explained by Papi’s desire to realize his masculinity to the fullest and prove to himself that he is interesting to other women, in addition to his wife. As Ostman notes, when being at a party, the man makes the children nervous with his behavior by demonstrating excessive bravado (51). At the same time, it becomes clear from the narration that the boy does not show hatred for the father and rejoices when the latter behaves relatively restrained and friendly. However, according to Ostman, in this family, fragmentation is observed since Papi positions himself as an independent person with free views and motives (52). His approach to life is to get what he wants, and his move to the United States proves his courageous ambition and willingness to confront others. Therefore, in relationships with others, Papi demonstrates similar dominant traits.

Role in the Boy’s Life

In relation to the boy’s life and his subsequent development, Papi has played an important role. Ostman remarks that the father’s masculinity influenced the narrator who acquired psychological stability and was able to draw conclusions about what role model of a man should not be (59). While living in constant anxiety and fear, the boy understands that his family is all that he has, and he cannot imagine that anything could be different. Conversely, he takes this behavior of his father for granted, and periodic physical punishment or other forms of parental abuse are the norms in their family. The narrator probably could have shown his writing talent even earlier, but the dominant role and authority of the father were too strong to allow the child to realize his creative ideas. Therefore, Papi, as an ambiguous father model, has influenced the boy significantly and largely determined Díaz’s quest for justice.


The analysis of behavioral traits, relationships with others, and the roles in the narrator’s life makes it possible to describe Papi, Díaz’s character of the story, as a brutal and sometimes aggressive man. At the same time, hiding sadness behind his dominance is a potential reason for his conduct. The fragmentation of the family is observed, and the father’s critical guilt in this is obvious. Aggression towards children and disregard for loyalty to his wife demonstrate his indifference to family values, and this phenomenon is perceived among his loved ones as a given. For the narrator, the role model of the father has become an example of how influential one person can be, and this knowledge permeates the entire story of “Fiesta, 1980.”


Díaz, Junot. Drown. Riverhead Books, 1997.

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Ostman, Heather. The Fiction of Junot Díaz: Reframing the Lens. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

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