The Achievement of Desire by Richard Rodriguez. Personal Review
“The Achievement of Desire”
Imagine feeling like you do not fit in within your own home. Feeling so isolated can build up insecurities, leaving the person to face them in their own way. An area of insecurity is in school and the academic life for people. When we are young, we had embedded into our minds that school should be our number one priority. A young boy named Rodriguez came from a Mexican culture where the simple things in life are put first over other things. Immigrating into an extreme and demanding culture, such as America’s, can put a lot of strain onto a person. Looking for routes of escape from the pressures is a natural reaction to solving the problem. Rodriguez decided to put all of his focus into school and adopt the American ways of life. Even though it is quite common to find insecurities among children and teenagers as they venture through their academic years of life, completely removing yourself from your heritage and culture was an extreme for Rodriguez, however, what he was searching for by separating from his heritage and culture could not be found by separation.
My life had taken a huge turn when the world I knew was taken from me and replaced with a whole new one. When I was going through elementary school, I had to move from a city to a small town, similar to Rodriguez’s situation. This was a big change for me because I only knew the ways of the city life. It was hard moving to a small town where everybody already knew each other. Rodriguez had to make a choice between following the simple ways of his Mexican culture or adapt to a completely new culture. Our situations are similar because we both had to alter our lifestyles that were very different from our previous ones. Just as Rodriguez felt with his family, I began to feel like an outcast in my new home town. Rodriguez stated, “Proudly I announced—to my family’s startled silence—that a teacher had said I was losing all trace of a Spanish accent (1).” Here, Rodriguez shows how distant he is becoming with his family and their culture. He was proud of losing his accent; however, his family did not seem all too thrilled with it as he was. He was becoming an outcast in his own home by denying his own culture. I can understand why Rodriguez decided to focus on his studies because it gives a person a form of escape from the stresses of changing to a new culture. I decided to focus on my school work to take my mind off of how uncomfortable I felt in a new setting. I felt insecure just as Rodriguez because I felt lonely and isolated just as he did. I put all of my trust into my teachers because I was attracted to their authority and control. I wanted to put a sense of control in my life. It was not until I reached college did I realize that I pulled away too far from my family and who I was. When I had less authority in my life, I came to the realization that I needed to take a step back and find how I had become so distant from my family. I had to question if I was truly happy, or convincing myself otherwise because that is what I have been told to do by other people my whole life. A missing piece in my life was my family, and now I have to work on rebuilding a foundation with them to fill that big hole from my life. As a result of Rodriguez’s actions, he had to look back on his life and find the paths that lead him to losing his heritage and culture.
As a young child, Rodriguez’s life had changed forever when he decided to adapt the American culture over his Mexican culture. He had moved from one culture into a very different culture. One major factor of our culture that Rodriguez noticed right away was the demand for well-educated people. Rodriguez formed an opinion that his own family was holding him back because they were not receiving the same education as he was. In order to be successful, he had to separate what his family did because their actions lead them down a path that has made them unsuccessful in his eyes. “A primary reason for my success in the classroom was that I couldn’t forget that schooling was changing me and separating me from the life I enjoyed before becoming a student” (Rodriguez2). Rodriguez believed that his culture would only lead him down a path of failure and financial devastation, which is looked down on in America. By denying his Mexican culture, Rodriguez became insecure because he had to teach himself a whole new culture on his own from a very young age, with education and his books to guide the way.
He found his teachers to be big role models for him. He was attracted to how intelligent, powerful, and so well together they seemed. His teachers were the well-educated people and they seemed to dominate in society, and that is exactly what Rodriguez desired. As an insecure person, Rodriguez turned his focus onto his teachers over his simple parents because he desired to be just as attractive as his teachers.
“He cannot afford to admire his parents. (How could he pursue such a contrary life?) He permits himself embarrassment at their lack of education” (Rodriguez4). Rodriguez openly admitted to being embarrassed about his parent’s lack of education. He felt as if they did not measure up to what people in America expect everyone to be. It was as if he was disappointed in them for not becoming educated and putting him in a position where he felt that way about them. When it came time to introducing his parents to his teachers, once again, he felt embarrassed by them. “I heard my father speak to my teacher and felt ashamed of his labored, accented words” (Rodriguez6). Rodriguez felt insecure about how different his parents were from his teachers. He did not like that his parents were talked down to by the teachers because of their accents. It made him feel “lower class”, which is exactly where he did not want to be. He wanted to be seen as “upper class” or in his eyes worthy of what he thought his teachers wanted. The embarrassment that Rodriguez felt could have sparked his insecure feelings and made him change his heritage and culture. Rodriguez felt that he needed to abandon his culture in order to continue down the road to achieve what he desires, which is to succeed in America. His family was only bringing him down because they did not meet the expectations he put for them in his eyes.
The demanding ways of American education can cause stress in any student’s life. As Americans, we set our expectations high on our students to push them to their full potential. We value education to create better jobs and advance us in the future. We strive for bigger, better, and best. Being successful in America is what Rodriguez desired. He wanted to be a dominate figure in the American culture. This gave him great motivation to disconnect from his heritage and culture. He wanted nothing to hold him back, and that’s what he thought his Mexican culture was doing to him. He wanted nothing more than to change and indulge deeper into his education. “I became the prized student – anxious and eager to learn” (Rodriguez1). When Rodriguez recognizes himself as the scholarship boy, he realizes he is part of a bigger whole. There were much more people like him out there, and he was able to put meaning behind his actions. He no longer felt like he was going down the wrong path by turning away from his family, he was just doing what other people like him had done previous to him when they came to America. He had to do what was best for him in the culture he moved into, which meant to put himself ahead of other people and get an education to have a successful and meaningful future.
Most children look up to their parents to find out who they are and how to form opinions. As a child, I would always look to my parents for advice on what is right and wrong. That is how I framed my ways of thinking. I also formed my view on authority and what I thought it should be. Rodriguez did not have the luxury of having close parents that understood his situation. They did not have the level of education Rodriguez was receiving when they were younger and going to school. Because of the lack of experience that Rodriguez’s parents have in academic America, Rodriguez, and occasionally his siblings, would have to take over the role of being the adult, or authority, in the household. Not looking up to his parents as I looked up to mine makes sense for Rodriguez because his parents did not understand the American dream like mine did. His parents could not appreciate the culture of the Americans because they did not understand why Americans value education as much as they do. “In our house each school year would begin with my mother’s careful instruction: “Don’t write in your books so we can sell them at the end of the year.” The remark was echoed in public by my teachers, but only in part: “Boys and girls, don’t write in your books. You must learn to treat them with great care and respect (Rodriguez 9-10).” Rodriguez’s saw that his parents just did not understand the American life. Where they would always look for ways to save money, his teachers would praise books and remind students on how important it is to respect them. This can cause insecurity in any child, especially Rodriguez; because he has to form a basis of what he thinks is right, or academically correct, off of his experience in a whole new culture rather than from his parents. He cannot turn to his parents for help with simple homework either because they cannot provide the right answers for him. He also missed out on many common cultural things in our society such as his parents reading him the popular books. “That was the scene on my mind when I walked home with a fourth grade companion and heard him say that his parents read to him every night. (A strange-sounding book—Winnie the Pooh.) Immediately, I wanted to know, “What is it like?” (Rodriguez6). When Rodriguez asked his friend what it was like, he meant having parents read to you every night, not what the book was about. Unfortunately, his friend had told him what the book was about and left Rodriguez still wondering what it feels like to have parents that can read to him just as everybody else’s parents were doing. This resulted in Rodriguez feeling lonely and insecure in his own home. Turning away from his home life to his school was a way to cover up his insecurities instead of facing them.
As Rodriguez neared what he called “the end of his education,” he found that there was still insecurity, or a missing piece, in his life. That missing gap was his heritage and his lack of participation in his Mexican culture. After he reached his goal in his academic life of becoming a scholar, he still felt insecurity in his work. “If because of my schooling, I had grown culturally separated from my parents; my education finally had given me ways of speaking and caring about that fact” (Rodriguez17). Rodriguez’s education had finally provided him with a meaning behind how he had become lost and lonely. After all Rodriguez had gone through to achieve his dream of becoming a scholar, he found that by separating from his heritage and culture he only distanced himself from what he truly needed in his life, his culture and family. Without his heritage and culture, he felt incomplete. His insecurities were starting to surface and he was able to face them. His education had given him meaning to all of the questions he had in his lifetime about how he came to be the way he was, and he was able to gradually work his way back into the cultural side of his life along with his family.
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