Right from the very first line of Junot Díaz’s short story “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” readers are warned that this is a tale of conflict. And from that point onward, whether it is a disagreement between the two main characters, the inconsistency of dire poverty superimposed onto commercial tourism, or one man’s personal struggle of contradictory desires, Díaz floods his story with the sounds and sights of seemingly unavoidable collisions. These impacts occur when one reality clashes with another; when two separate visions, whether personal or environmental, conflict. This is a story in which people have trouble hearing what another person is saying, in which people do not understand what another person is feeling, and, worse yet, in which some of the characters appear to be living within a divided personal world in which they do not seem able to truly comprehend even themselves. Díaz’s characters are just plain out of sync, and the consequences are that experiences becomes distorted. Even the title, which purposely suggests a fairy-tale romance, conflicts with the body of this story, which hopes to be a romance but ends up being quite the opposite.
Díaz wastes no time setting up the conflicts that permeate this short story. In the first paragraph of “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” the narrator points out that Magdalena, his girlfriend, does not agree with him. And if the truth be known, even the narrator has trouble agreeing with himself. Although he will not admit that he is bad, he is hard pressed to convince the reader (or himself) that he is good. The narrator immediately qualifies his goodness: he is only basically good, he states. And it is upon this basic goodness that he sets the foundation of his argument—he does not deserve to lose his girlfriend, no matter what her friends advise and no matter what the narrator has done to destroy his relationship with her. The narrator admits that he has cheated on Magdalena, but he justifies his deception. It was just a fling, something he could not control. The woman, Cassandra, was all over him. How could he resist? And why, oh why is Magdalena making such a fuss over the affair? It is done with, having happened a long time ago, buried like an old bone in the backyard. It was performed at a time when his and Magdalena’s relationship was not going as smoothly as it was right before Cassandra’s letter arrived, unveiling the truth of the short-lived affair. So, in the narrator’s mind, Magdalena should forgive him, although during most of the remaining story, he doubts she ever will.
That is the narrator’s world. But Magdalena lives in another reality, one that is built on truths very different from the narrator’s. Magdalena does not understand how her boyfriend could have done such a thing. How could he have had an affair? She takes his action as a personal attack against herself. She had trusted him to be monogamous. Her love for him was based on his fidelity. And like a parent who is scolding a child, Magdalena does her best, through her actions as well as her words, to let the narrator know that once trust is broken, there is no way of fixing it.
It takes the narrator a long time to comprehend Magdalena’s message that something is seriously wrong with the relationship. And even when he catches hints of what Magdalena is trying to tell him, the narrator closes his eyes and wishes it away. He tries to convince Magdalena to forgive him, to persuade her to recreate their relationship, to show her there is another world that they can enter if she will just forget about Cassandra (even though the narrator has trouble doing this).
But Magdelena’s world has been shattered, and the narrator is the cause of this disaster. Her dreams have changed. But even though she knows this, Magdalena does not fully comprehend how the change is affecting her. Therefore, she has to live somewhere in between the world she once shared with the narrator and a new world she has yet to completely shape. For instance, she feels she has to go along with plans they made earlier. The reason for this is that Magdalena cannot fully determine her new emotions because she is neither here nor there. And until she watches her feelings play out, until her new world is formed, she will not know what she thinks, not just about her boyfriend but about herself as well. Does she still love him? Can she forgive him? Can she continue to be who she was? And if not, who will she become?
The narrator and Magdalena...
(The entire section is 1842 words.)
“The working, concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work — who is thus responsible to the work… Serious interruptions to work, therefore, are never the inopportune, cheerful, even loving interruptions which come to us from another.
It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
― Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays