09 April 2014

A Loss and a Gain


This excerpt from the autobiography, Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez discusses the journey that Richard took while learning the English language as an immigrant child living in the United States with his family.  In the beginning of the chapter’s excerpt Richard is explaining how his family, who felt like outsiders in the United States due to their language barrier, used to speak freely to one another at home while using their native language.  Richard explains that when he used to go to his Catholic school he felt like he was being forced to give up his identity.  He was very shy in class and obviously was not very confident with his English.  He rarely tried to speak in class.  Due to probably not feeling good about this, Richard was always happy to be able to go home to his family where his parents and siblings would used his native language that he was so familiar and comfortable with.  This common bond due to their language and heritage kept the family so close.  He loved to hear the gentle soft words that his parents spoke.  After not making much progress with the English language, Richards teachers/nuns decided to drop by his house one day. After meeting with the nuns, Richard’s parents agreed that the best plan of action was for the family to stop using the Spanish language at home. At first, Richard was not too happy about this. This had a drastic impact on the relationship he had with his family as well as the world around him. Richard saw English as a public language that he at first did not really want to accept.  He saw Spanish as a private language that allowed him to stay intimate with his family.  Over time though Richard gradually gave in and began to make a real effort to learn English both at home and in school.  As a result, Richard explained that in many ways his family lost that sense of intimacy.  Suddenly, it became harder and harder for him to be able to talk to his parents since they did not pick up English in the same way he and his siblings did. Also, the mother became the familiar public voice and the father became more “silent” overtime.  Many people called the dad shy but the truth is he was very outgoing whenever speaking in his native language.  The more his children became Americanized the less he was able to talk to them. Richard also mentioned that him and his siblings stopped rushing home from school because they were becoming more and more assimilated into American culture.  They had English speaking friends and other places to go. Richard also mentioned how many people have different views on bilingual education in this country.  I guess Richard feels that he may have lost some of his true identity while learning the English language. Richard basically feels that people who assimilate into new cultures often pay the price of losing some of their private individuality/identity.  However, he also stressed that this assimilation allows the individual to gain a public identity just like he did.

What is one of Richard’s claims or purposes for writing?

One of Richard’s purposes for writing this autobiography is to let readers know the impact that assimilation can have on immigrant families when they move to the United States.  Not only does he want readers to learn about how assimilating to American culture can affect an individuals sense of identity (like himself) but also the drastic effects this could have on a family as well.  Richard shows that over time he and his family become more American and that their relationships to each other and the world around them changed forever.

What kind of evidence does he use to support this?

Richard uses lots of evidence to support his claim that assimilation can have a huge impact on immigrant families when they move to the United States.  Richard uses examples from his own life to support his claim.  Most importantly he focused on how he himself changed which also directly led to his family life changing. For example, he explains that by learning English, “one suffers a diminished sense of private individuality by becoming assimilated into public society, such assimilation makes possible the achievement of public individuality” (P. 26).  Richard basically feels that he lost much of his identity by assimilating while gaining some of a new identity.  He further supports this claim by later saying ”If I rehearse hear the changes in my private life after my Americanization, it is finally to emphasize the public gain.  The loss implies the gain: The house I returned to each afternoon was quiet. Intimate sounds no longer rushed to the door to greet me. There were other noises inside. The telephone rang. Neighborhood kids ran past the door of the bedroom where I was reading my schoolbooks—covered with shopping-bag paper. Once I learned the public language, it would never again be easy for me to hear intimate family voices.”(P. 27) This quote explains how he lost a lot by assimilating while also gaining a new public identity. The unfortunate part though is that his family will never feel as intimate as they once were now that he is just another American boy.

Does he explain how this evidence supports his claim/purpose? In other words, does he have analysis or does he ask the readers to make the connections on their own?

I believe that Richard does a pretty good job explaining how this evidence supports his claim/purpose? I think basically the whole entire excerpt is talking about this purpose. The quotes I listed above are just a few of many I could have used to show evidence of what I believe his purpose of writing this piece of literature was. Through out the entire chapter, he brought up many different examples that showed the reader that assimilation could have a huge impact on immigrant families when they move to the United States.


I enjoyed this reading because it reminded me of my own family. I have hispanic blood on both sides of my family and thought about what it just have been like when my grandparents first came to live in the United States.  How much of their private identity did they have to give up to gain a public one?  This reading also made me think about what it would be like for an American child to move to a Spanish speaking country.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Great post, victoria! So much detail! Keep it up!

    ReplyDelete