According to the writer James Baldwin, “the making of an American begins at the point where he himself rejects all other ties, any other history, and himself adopts the vesture of his adopted land.” This quotation
means there are times when people should put aside any type of foreign cultural link in order to be recognized within their society. When people try to gather their native cultures with another one chaos will be formed and the achievement of having a prosperous society will not be probable most likely. Similarly, in Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez mentions how crucial it was for him to give up his culture in order to be recognized within the American society. Rodriguez learns that English is his way of being heard; he states, “I came to believe what had been technically true since my birth: I was an American citizen.” Rodriguez’s discovery strongly leads him to believe he can speak for himself and be someone; yet his actions make him lose connection with his family due to his parents’ ignorance of the English language. Therefore, Rodriguez is unavoidably forced to leave his family and his culture behind; however, he is still able to obtain a high level of education which gives him fundamental assimilation and individual involvement within society.
Rodriguez is obligated to untie his relationships with his family. About his first day of school Rodriguez says, “I remember to start with that day in Sacramento…when I first entered a classroom, able to understand some fifty stray English words.” As a kid, Rodriguez knowledge of the English language makes him to be around an uncomfortable environment at school. Not being able to respond and talk at school mortifies Rodriguez. He feels disadvantaged since his poor social skills at the time were not letting him have a good education. While he tries to become more open towards society trough his education, he encounters himself distant from his family.
Also, as Rodriguez feels inept answering questions in English during class and fearing any talk that can go beyond a few basic words, a couple of nuns from his school ask his parents to speak English around the house. So, in that way, Rodriguez would attach to his school. Once Rodriguez is forced to speak English at home, he suffers a huge change in his personality, changing him for the better. Now, he is a participant at school. He raises his hand in the classroom and loudly expresses himself in English. English becomes Rodriguez’ primary language while his native language, the language of his parents, Spanish, is almost forgotten. At the same time, Rodriguez notices that this family is no longer close to him, realizing he was not an immigrant. Consequently, he grows embarrassed as his parents and his relatives know that forgetting “his own language.” Rodriguez’s relatives feel he does not belong, due to his lack of Spanish, in their culture. They even call him “Pocho”, a word used to define Mexican-Americans who, in becoming an American, forgets his native society. This in general forces Rodriguez to part ways with his culture and family.
Education does not bring separation between Rodriguez and his family, but it also allows him assimilate into the American society. He credits learning English and his schooling with helping him develop his sociability. The success of Rodriguez in school is due to his enormous effort he puts on his studies and his constant habit of reading and writing. Rodriguez believes that a primary reason for his success in the classroom is that he can’t forget that schooling is changing him because he is becoming a member of society.
Moreover, Rodriguez feels integrated in society as his educational level rises. It is then when Rodriguez takes his first steps toward achieving a public identity. He knows with a public identity he will be able to have a personality that is going to represent him among people. Having a public identity will allow him to become more sociable as well. Rodriguez’ youth seems awkward mainly because of the tension between his private family life and his public life outside his house until he acknowledges he is a member of society thanks to his schooling.
Due to his educational efforts, Rodriguez gains involvement within society. The efforts lead him to attend great universities such as Stanford, Columbia, and Berkeley. As a scholar student, Rodriguez perceives the world differently. Socialization is not a problem any longer since he feels his education permits him to have not only a personality but a right to be involved in social topics as well. Also, it is via his involvement and his social skills that Rodriguez understands issues regarding his character. His involvement within society lets him to have a voice that can be heard among people. That voice permits to speak with authority in society. When affirmative action takes action, benefiting Rodriguez, he is not able understand why he is being treated as a minority. He says that he cannot identify himself with the term “minority student” since he acknowledges in his early age that he forms part of the American society.
In Hunger of Memory, education plays a fundamental role in Rodriguez’s life. Rodriguez’ education parts him away from his family, culture, and any other immigrant background. He feels speaking two different languages at different settings alters his schooling, but, on the other hand, he desires to have an education abundantly because that achievement integrates and involves him within society. By having education, Rodriguez experiences socialization and the achievement of his desired goals. Rodriguez educational efforts allow him to attend schools which permit him to gain incredible knowledge of social skills. He understands that those social skills make him part of the American society. Such assimilation into American culture is what he valuably needs so that in the end he can become an educated public man with a strong voice among people.