Theme in Hunger of Memory: Scholarship Boy
The author, Richard Rodriguez uses his education background as a central theme in his work to depict how his private life is different from his public life. He particularly revolves around language and education illustrating how they influenced his transition from childhood to adulthood. During his school years, English was enforced as the mode of communication. At his early days, he was a poor performer and this caught the attention of his teachers. However, this was not the case as he becomes a book warmer and English becomes the preferred mode of communication. The student who did not understand a single English word at the age of six, twenty years later, can proudly summarize his education career with one sentence. He progresses through life in a mindset of achievement to become a renowned individual in the same thing that he poorly performed (the English language).
Being of a Spanish origin, Rodriguez quest for education tears him apart from his native culture. This is particularly seen as he laments of the success he gained at the expense of his family ties. From one level of education to the next, he would receive awards and everyone congratulated him saying “Your parents must be very proud”. This, however, made him feel guilty and sleazy as he remembered that the relationship with his parents and siblings was not that tight. He had forfeited their relationship at the expense of his education. The boy had an intimate relationship with his books. His parents were even worried about his social life. On the other hand, his siblings would make jokes about him and his reading habits. Despite his success, the author feels to have attained it in an odd way. He had the feeling that he was a bad scholarship student. Being a member of the Spanish speaking countries, his endeavors alienated him from his cultural heritage. The members of his society felt betrayed by him acquiring formal education and his criticism to both bilingual education and affirmative action (Rodriguez 1983).
Rodriguez ability of retracing his childhood memories brings to his attention the inevitable reality. School had challenged him for the better. Although it had taken him many years to come to terms with the truth, it finally hit him that the primary reason for his success in the classroom was that he enjoyed that kind of life as opposed to his former. Through this, Richard Rodriguez is able to display the power of education and extensive use of language. The hero attributes these two aspects as the greatest pillars contributing to his transition to adulthood. Although he criticizes education, he does it in a peculiar way that depicts his appreciation of the role the subject played in transforming him from the past to the present. His lack of knowledge in the subject matter during his early schooling days made him dormant and a sleeping dog in the classroom. The author, however, rose from setbacks and insecurities as a child to a strong and educated individual. Rodriguez depicts that he was to become an ugly person and had a mentality of viewing himself as ugly. As a child he struggles after the discovery that his dark completion is similar to those of poor in the streets, servants who served at his friend’s houses and various workers of the field. It was because of the education that Rodriguez begins to define himself as a respected person and stops taking into account his skin color. Despite the view from his parents and community that dark is ugly, he is able to see the difference between him and the other people whom he used to compare himself with. The difference was brought about by a change of his attitude, imagination and view of himself. The realization that the inner self is what makes him dawns on him and he determines what he can achieve. After these thoughts, the author realizes that people around him do not picture him as ugly. The change in the mindset of the author culminates the main purpose of the book. It highlights how Rodriguez attains more confident and better person with a positive view. All these changes are primarily based on education.
The theme of education is further rooted in the text as the hero depicts becoming alienated from his family as his desire for education grew. The different phases of Rodriguez life including his early days at the Catholic Church indicate the pain that he was going through as an individual. The most important point to consider is his outright rejection in the staunchest manner. This is why the author criticizes affirmative action. This is expressed in the most candid and vivid ways. However, they do not end as nobody pays attention to what the teacher has to say in the ghetto classroom. Rodriguez rejection is aimed at alleviating racial and ethnic minorities in America. Being engrossed in his educational transition, he views everyone as unable to understand him. Rodriguez argues that he experiences difficulties in separating his classroom life from that of home. The rejection can also be seen as arising from Richard. For example, when his father could not assist him with an assignment, he resolves in doing everything alone henceforth. He seems to forget that his parents had limited education and, therefore, views them as not understanding him (Marquez 1984).
The more he quests for education, the more the gap between him and his family widens. From an intellectual point of view, this gap loosens the family and social values that were once held in common. The scholarship betters his life at the expense of his family and culture. The mindset that it offers clearly indicates that this is the central point of the book. The transformation of Rodriguez from a private to a public life can be attributed to the opportunities that most Americans enjoy today. This is from the affirmative action that the author criticizes. He elevates his success as a minority student and illustrates the requirements needed for attaining a successful stature in the American society. It is, however, ironical seeing, the author criticizes the very same thing that enabled him to rise to the public domain (Rivera 1984). Like majority ego-centric individuals, Rodriguez fails to see how the bilingual system has clouded his judgment and philosophy. His criticism is biased as he speaks with contempt towards the very same nature of the Spanish culture, which he is a part of. The author tries to deny his roots and culture and his social place of America’s minorities. Rodriguez forgets he is part of the minorities that are criticized by him as a result of the success. Despite this, his appreciation of the importance of language is a vivid expression in his work. He, therefore, strives to disassociate himself with the poor class of the uneducated. From Rodriguez point of view, assimilation occurs due to the bilingual system that offered him the chance that hasn’t been prompt to many American minorities.
In conclusion, Rodriquez is, however, of the view that education, success and chances that accompanied it, is the root for his alienation from his family, relations and culture. This clearly shows how the book has advanced in the exploration of the theme of education. “Haunted by the knowledge that one chooses to become a student, education is not an inevitable or natural step in growing up”. The author recounts and regrets how his choice separated him from the life once loved and enjoyed. His view indicates that he would have preferred being in the monolingual system (Sollors 1986).