In Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez, the American son of Mexican immigrant parents, describes the painful and difficult process of ‘Americanization’– the losses (family life) for the gains (education) - that he underwent from his childhood to his twenties. His literary work is divided into six chapters, each of which describes a different aspect of thementioned process and shows the several difficulties that accompanied it.
In the first chapter, Aria, Mr. Rodriguez focuses on the two worlds in which he lived: the private world and the public world, which were defined by language, Spanish and English, respectively. Spanish was the language used in the comfort and security of home, with the people he knew and loved: his family. He could onlyspeak Spanish; his parents could only speak Spanish (fluently). Spanish was a language that implied the intimacy of home. On the other hand, English was the language of the public world, the world outside of home. He barely knew 50 words of English. His parents had a hard time communicating in it. When they did so, they did it with much accented tones and struggled to understand what the gringos weretelling them. English implied coldness and emptiness.
The division there existed between the two languages caused learning problems for Mr. Rodriguez and his siblings, until the nuns of the Catholic school he attended went to his home to speak to his parents and ask them to speak in English to their children. When this happened, Mr. Rodriguez had a crisis because, along with Spanish, theintimate world of the family would be lost away. At this time, for this reason, Mr. Rodriguez began to separate from his family.
In chapter 2, The Achievement of Desire, he talks about how the kid who entered school knowing only 50 words of English finished his studies in the British Museum. He compares himself to the ‘scholarship boy’ described in Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy, the boy whois successful at school, making good grades, and studying in order to have an opinion, but never to generate a personal one. His parents pertained to the working-class. They had never read for pleasure; they had never read a book. The only things they read were tax forms and the Bible. Instead, his teachers at school read for pleasure, and encouraged students to do so. His teachers did not belongto the working-class, they were literate. He came to admire his teachers, and became ashamed of his parents. He believed that in order to succeed he needed to be like his teachers, and started reading as many books as he could, which increased the division between him and his parents.
Chapter 3, Credo, is where he describes the religious world in which he grew up and its transformationthroughout the years. He was born a Catholic because his parents were Catholic. Since he was very young, he attended a Catholic grammar school in Sacramento, where he learned the Catholic doctrine: he learned the prayers; he learned about sins; he learned about religious festivities, etc. At that time, masses were in Latin and used to be more ornamental; the priest faced the tabernacle, not the people.There was also less of a community feeling and more time for private, individual prayer. The music played was that of Bach’s or other Baroque composers. Catholicism was very conservative. However, his Catholicism began to change when he started attending Stanford University. There, he met and shared time with non-Catholic people. He also met several liberal Catholics. During his senior year atStanford, he even
cheered for the liberal bishops and cardinals at great convocations to attempt the reconciliation of the Church with other religions. Gradually, in this new environment, he gave up his former customs. Instead of going to the priests for advice, he went to his friends. He stopped going to Confessions because he did not asses his behavior against the Church’s standards. Masses...