Aria : Memoir Essay

Literature > Richard Rodriguez’s Aria Richard Rodriguez’s Aria is a personal memoir about bilingual education. Throughout his essay he represents the power of the individual to defeat the language barrier and he tells how he overcame this particular problem as a child. He is very happy to celebrate his new name because he feels that he is part of the American society as a public individual, he is no longer afraid to express himself in public and by loosing the language of home he began to feel that his childhood started to end.

The acquisition of his new name was beneficial to Richard because it was the first step that made him realize he is indeed American and he is part of the American society. As a result of the language barrier he could not communicate with his teachers, hence he could not learn because his environment did not really foster an understanding of the English language. His words could not form complete thoughts and he stayed quiet all the time in school. Throughout this memoir Rodriguez tells us how he started to use the English language more and more. As soon as he started to speak the public language he learned that he had a public identity.

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When his name was pronounced “Rich-heard” instead of “Ri-card-o” he started to loose the strings that were attached to his other name. He always thought that outside the house there was public society; inside the house was private. Richard got nervous whenever he heard the sounds of the gringo what was foreign to him and reminded him that he was foreign in this big world. Whenever he returned home he heard voices talking in Spanish and he felt safe being around his family. After he started to use the English language at home, at school, with the neighbor kids and through the telephone he was no longer a socially disadvantaged child.

He learned the public language of his country where he was a citizen. He wasn’t an alien in gringo society anymore. He became a public individual. “The social and political advantages I enjoy as a man result from the day that I came to believe that my name, indeed, is Rich-heard Road-ree-guess” (Rodriguez). With this statement he refers how beneficial the acquisition of his new name was. Richard was always very quiet in school but he became silent in class because he thought that Spanish was a private language and English was a public language and he didn’t believe that he has the right and the obligation to speak the public language.

He was scared to speak up because he didn’t just have to express himself, but also he had to be understood by others. After the nuns were visiting Richard’s home his family started to speak English at home and he begun to feel that he was loosing the strong attachment to his private language. Everywhere he went in his home the family members were speaking in English. After he couldn’t hide behind his private language anymore the silence was broken in public language. One day in school he spoke out loud and got very confident because he wasn’t even thinking that it was strange that his classmates understood him.

He wasn’t a socially disadvantaged child anymore and he started to feel that he belonged in public as a public individual. As Richard learned the English as a public language more and more he started to find himself in a different world. The world where he can represent himself. To gain this; to be the public individual as he is today he had to loose something private. His very last sentence says “the day I raised my hand in class and spoke loudly to an entire roomful of faces, my childhood started to end” (Rodriguez) His childhood was very painful because he was scared to speak up in public and he couldn’t express himself.

As soon as he gained confidence in public his life changed. He became social with the neighbors and he started to use the telephone as a tool for communication. He started to loose hearing intimate family voices and began to hear words. He was no longer “Ri-card-o” and he was very happy to celebrate his new name “Rich-heard” and put his painful childhood behind him. The acquisition of a new name was very beneficial to Richard because it helped him to became a new person; a “member of the crowd” (Rodriguez) a part of the American society as an individual.

He’s no longer a socially disadvantaged child because he can communicate through the public language, hence he can express himself and he can be understood by others in society. He also celebrates his new name because he is no longer a person who’s life is painful by not be able to use the public language when it is required to be able to represent himself. Richard was able to think himself as an American who has the right to speak and the obligation to belong in gringo society.


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