Essay on Richard Rodriguez's Autobiography Hunger of Memory

Essay on Richard Rodriguez's Autobiography Hunger of Memory

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Richard Rodriguez's Autobiography "Hunger of Memory"


There exists in the majority of people a schism between their public lives and their private lives. People should desire to have their public selves match their private selves as closely as possible. A rift between the two causes nothing but pain and suffering for everyone around those people and places a heavy burden on the spirit of the ones responsible. Trust and honesty are essential to our society and the truth should be complimentary, not earned. Richard Rodriguez, a writer and public speaker, expertly illustrates his own experience with this type of double life in his autobiography, Hunger of Memory.

In the last section of Hunger of Memory “Mr. Secrets”, Rodriguez paints an intimate portrait of his parents’ distinction between public and private life. He starts this by mentioning his mother’s disapproval over the inclusion of private family issues in his autobiography. Rodriguez continues to show the reader that his parents were different people in different settings; his mother actually had a separate and distinct voice for dealing with strangers that was never used with family. He then tells of his attempts to explain the field of Psychiatry to his mother, and her inability to understand divulging personal secrets to a complete stranger. Rodriguez responds to this by pointing out how often people use diaries or journals to reveal their private thoughts to an imaginary stranger. Rodriguez closes by showing instances of his own distinction between public and private life. This is indicated when a close friend reads one of his essays and remarks the essay does not seem like him; that he is not really like that. As a close friend, should she not know what Rodriguez is really like? Why doesn’t she?

Too many people have too much distance between what is public and what is private. Total honesty is an incredible thing. When children are small they are often taught that withholding the truth is another form of lying, yet grown men and women do it every day. Behaving one way in public and another way in private weakens and cheapens public life and private life. When a person keeps things from their coworkers and peers, their coworkers and peers are being denied the total package. How can trust come from that? When that same person saves a part of him or herself for select individuals, those ind...


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...n San Francisco” (186). Rodriguez is so secretive that he does not even disclose to his own family that he’s working on his first book. Why must he keep so many secrets? His own family has almost no idea of who he truly is, “In the company of strangers now, I do not reveal the person I am among intimates. My brother and sisters recognize a different person, not the Richard Rodriguez in this book” (190). His own insecurity causes him to be a complete stranger to his own family. Life should not be this way.

Despite the best efforts of Richard Rodriguez and those like him, the gap between society’s public and private lives is getting noticeably smaller. As minds are changed and integrity (which has been described as the difference between words and actions) becomes the norm, the public personas of the people will much more closely match their private personas. These same people will finally be free from the needless shackles of regret. Society’s essential ingredients, truth and honesty, will be readily available for all those that currently lack them. Some day soon, the truth will set them free.

Works Cited

Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.

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