Hunger of Memory

Rodriguez’s Mother Character Analysis

Rodriguez’s mother is depicted as the biggest advocate of his education, which she sees (at least according to Rodriguez) as an opportunity for job advancement. As a new immigrant to America, Rodriguez’s mother received her high school diploma (despite having poor English skills) and became a typist recognized for her excellent spelling. Eventually she moved up to a job in a government agency, but her limited English resulted in her making an embarrassing mistake (writing “gorillas” instead of “guerrillas”) and being demoted. Rodriguez writes that after reaching a dead end in her own career, his mother “willed her ambition to her children.” Rodriguez’s mother is supportive of his academic successes and she is upset and mystified when he chooses to leave his career as a professor and turn to writing about topics that she considers to be private family matters. She is also dismayed that Rodriguez sees the family as lacking closeness.

Rodriguez’s Mother Quotes in Hunger of Memory

The Hunger of Memory quotes below are all either spoken by Rodriguez’s Mother or refer to Rodriguez’s Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dial Press edition of Hunger of Memory published in 2004.
Prologue Quotes

Aztec ruins hold no special interest for me. I do not search Mexican graveyards for ties to unnamable ancestors. I assume I retain certain features of gesture and mood derived from buried lives. I also speak Spanish today. And read García Lorca and García Márquez at my leisure. But what consolation can that fact bring against the knowledge that my mother and father have never heard of García Lorca or García Márquez?

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 1 Quotes

One Saturday morning I entered the kitchen where my parents were talking in Spanish. I did not realize that they were talking in Spanish however until, at the moment they saw me, I heard their voices change to speak English. Those gringo sounds they uttered startled me. Pushed me away. In that moment of trivial misunderstanding and profound insight, I felt my throat twisted by unsounded grief. I turned quickly and left the room. But I had no place to escape to with Spanish. (The spell was broken.) My brother and sisters were speaking English in another part of the house.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father , Rodriguez’s Siblings
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:

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My mother met the wrath of her brother, her only brother, when he came up from Mexico one summer with his family. He saw his nieces and nephews for the very first time. After listening to me, he looked away and said what a disgrace it was that I couldn’t speak Spanish, “su propio idioma.” He made that remark to my mother; I noticed, however, that he stared at my father.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Those times I remembered the loss of my past with regret, I quickly reminded myself of all the things my teachers could give me. (They could make me an educated man.) I tightened my grip on pencil and books. I evaded nostalgia. Tried hard to forget. But one does not forget by trying to forget. One only remembers. I remembered too well that education had changed my family’s life. I would not have become a scholarship boy had I not so often remembered.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Months later, two weeks of Christmas vacation: The first hours home were the hardest. (“What’s new?”) My parents and I sat in the kitchen for a conversation. (But, lacking the same words to develop our sentences and to shape our interests, what was there to say? What could I tell them of the term paper I had just finished on the “universality of Shakespeare’s appeal”?)

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

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Negatively (for that is how this idea first occurred to me): My need to think so much and so abstractly about my parents and our relationship was in itself an indication of my long education. … And yet, positively: The ability to consider experience so abstractly allowed me to shape into desire what would otherwise have remained indefinite, meaningless longing in the British Museum.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

A child whose parents could not introduce him to books like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I was introduced to the spheres of enchantment by the nighttime Catholicism of demons and angels. The superstitious Catholicism of home provided a kind of proletarian fairy world.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

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In ceremonies of public worship, [my parents] have been moved, assured that their lives—all aspects of their lives, from waking to eating, from birth until death, all moments—possess great significance. Only the liturgy has encouraged them to dwell on the meaning of their lives. To think.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

I stood there. I wanted to say something more. But what could I say in Spanish, even if I could have pronounced the words right? Perhaps I just wanted to engage them in small talk, to be assured of their confidence, our familiarity. I thought for a moment to ask them where in Mexico they were from. Something like that. And maybe I wanted to tell them (a lie, if need be) that my parents were from the same part of Mexico.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

My mother must use a high-pitched tone of voice when she addresses people who are not relatives. It is a tone of voice I have all my life heard her use away from the house. Coming home from grammar school with new friends, I would hear it, its reminder: My new intimates were strangers to her. Like my sisters and brother, over the years, I’ve grown used to hearing that voice. Expected to hear it. Though I suspect that voice has played deep in my soul, sounding a lyre, to recall my “betrayal,” my movement away from our family’s intimate past.

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother, Rodriguez’s Father , Rodriguez’s Siblings
Page Number: 191-192
Explanation and Analysis:

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My mother stands waving toward no one in particular. She seems sad to me. How sad? Why? (Sad that we all are going home? Sad that it was not quite, can never be, the Christmas one remembers having had once?) I am tempted to ask her quietly if there is anything wrong. (But these are questions of paradise, Mama.)

Related Characters: Richard Rodriguez (speaker), Rodriguez’s Mother
Related Symbols: Silence
Page Number: 211-212
Explanation and Analysis:

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Rodriguez’s Mother Character Timeline in Hunger of Memory

The timeline below shows where the character Rodriguez’s Mother appears in Hunger of Memory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Aria
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...a pocho, a Mexican American who has forgotten his Mexican roots. He writes that his mother and father felt pressure to explain why their children did not speak fluent, easy Spanish.... (full context)
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
“Aria” closes with Rodriguez’s poetic remembrance of the last time he saw his grandmother before she died. He can remember what she said to him, but he doesn’t communicate... (full context)
Chapter 3: Credo
Memory Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
This essay opens with a handful of memories from the childhoods of Rodriguez’s mother and father. Rodriguez emphasizes that his parents recall growing up in Mexican towns “where everyone... (full context)
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
...depicted as a “serene white lady”; at home, she was “dark like [Rodriguez]” and Rodriguez’s mother proudly reminded him that the Virgin “could have appeared to anyone in the world, but... (full context)
Chapter 4: Complexion
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...soft but firm negative.) In direct contrast stand Rodriguez’s memories from childhood summers, when his mother would react angrily to his sun-darkened skin. She scolded him for being careless, warning, “You... (full context)
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...according to Rodriguez, the siblings look like they could all be from different continents, Rodriguez’s mother and father insist that their children never deny their Mexican ancestry. As a child, Rodriguez... (full context)
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Rodriguez elaborates that his extended family members shared his mother’s (and sister’s) preference for light skin. He claims that, even though he was the target... (full context)
Race, Class, and Identity Theme Icon
Memory Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...when his older sister wanted to take a job cleaning houses in high school, his mother allowed it only on the condition that she not wear a uniform—she was not a... (full context)
Chapter 6: Mr. Secrets
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...how, following the publication of his first autobiographical essay, he received a letter from his mother saying: “Write about something else in the future. Our family life is private.” Specifically, Rodriguez’s... (full context)
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Rodriguez continues, arguing that his mother’s use of the phrase los gringos indicates that his mother and father “have not followed... (full context)
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Rodriguez describes struggling to explain to his parents his impulse to write. Once, when his mother asked him what a psychiatrist did, he realized that his mother could never imagine talking... (full context)
Private vs. Public Identity Theme Icon
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Rodriguez writes that he responded to his mother’s letter, trying to explain to her that he had not meant to hurt her by... (full context)
Language, Intimacy, and Authority Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...year, but that the whole family only gathers on holidays, at the behest of his mother. He reflects that, at these holiday dinners, she often seems lonely and unable to participate... (full context)