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Summary Of The Book Hunger Of Memory And Response To It.

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Public or Private: Why not both?

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 individuals are under the added pressure to keep that part a secret from everyone else. Congratulations! They have now been included in that deceitful little game called human interaction. It does not have to be that way; the truth can set them free.

Rodriguez's mother asks of him, "Why do you need to tell the gringos about how divided you feel from the family?" (Rodriguez 175). She doesn't think it right that he so freely presents the family's private life. Why does she feel some things should remain private? What is she afraid of? Perhaps a better question is: what is she ashamed of? Rodriguez's mother obviously feels self-conscious about certain aspects of their family life or she would not be uncomfortable with sharing the details. This cultural withdrawal, as each family pulls away from their neighbors, is one of the leading causes of the modern exclusivist viewpoint that is becoming all too common. This isolationist attitude is one of the primary causes of today's crime rate.

Rodriguez states that his "mother must use a high pitched tone of voice when she addresses people that are not relatives" (177). This demonstrates that strangers, even sons/daughters-in-law were never included in the same group as relatives. Imagine how trying that would be for a young fiancйe that desperately wanted to feel like part of the family but never could? Later, Rodriguez's mother asks what Psychiatry is. His answer involves Freud, analysis, and clinically trained listeners to which she replies, "You mean that people tell a psychiatrist about their personal lives?" (183). Would that be so bad?

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