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The Achievement of Desire

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1. What do you think Rodriquez is saying now that you have read his entire essay?

2. How does reading the last part of the essay complicate or expand on what you read in the first part?

3. Can you relate to what Rodriquez has said in his essay? How exactly? Be specific.

4. Why does Rodriguez refer to Richard Hoggart’s story?

5. Does Rodriguez believe that a good balance can be maintained between home life and a successful educational life?

6. How does Rodriguez feel about his parents, and the role they have played in his life?

In his essay “The Achievement of Desire,” Richard Rodriguez writes about his experiences as a student. While writing about his education Rodriguez makes several points out of an abstract personality model. Originally conceived by the author Richard Hoggart, Rodriguez identifies with “the scholarship boy” and in detail relates his experiences to the model. As defined by Hoggart in “The Uses of Literacy,” the “scholarship boy” is a student who even with a disadvantaged family, manages to develop academically, and achieve outstanding academic success and characteristic.

In “The Achievement of Desire,” Rodriguez makes important observations of himself and of his earlier life, likening himself to Hoggart’s supposed scholarship boy in most respects. In fact, Rodriguez’s past experiences match with Hoggart’s description. Hoggart writes that, “The boy spends a large part of his time at the physical center of the home, where the woman’s spirit rules.” This is the case with Rodriguez as well, especially in regards to his relationships with his family, and his mother. He even credits his mother as the one responsible for driving him forward into his future, wanting a better life for her children; according to Hoggart, “The boy has to cut himself off mentally, so as to do his homework, as well as he can.” Rodriguez was often found in the closet, secretly reading novels.

Finally, in comparing Rodriguez with Hoggart’s “scholarship boy” Rodriguez, “waited for the teachers to tell him which books to enjoy.” This was an example of the problem with education recommended by Herbert Spencer. Rodriguez similar to Hoggart’s “scholarship boy,” learned in the manner of “submissive receptivity instead of independent activity.” Rodriguez, the student, could have not working out of the scholarship boy form if he relied on himself, his own thoughts and stopped believing in his teachers and books as the only sources of education, information and of his personal validation.

Hoggart was harsh and concluding in his description of “the scholarship boy.” In Hoggart’s opinion, the student, due to the way in which he learned, was ruined to a certain condition. In Hoggart’s words, “the scholarship boy wavers between scorn and longing.” This is not true of Rodriguez, who understands his past, and has no such problems. It is in this way the difference between the two scholarship boys becomes clear. Though early in life as a student Rodriguez is the perfect “scholarship boy,” he is not as hopeless as Hoggart’s writings would suppose. In fact his career flourishes, as well as his relationship with his family. Rodriguez managed to hold onto his origins, even though the deep personal conflict he experienced in school. Not like Hoggart’s endless “scholarship boy,” Rodriguez escaped the failure of fate, and managed to become, and remain the scholar.

In the last pages of “The Achievement of Desire” Richard Rodriguez attempts to describe the nature of his achievement. “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.” “Was it worthy?” The conclusion that derives from the text is that one cannot accomplish anything unless they put effort and passion in it and they are prepared to take all the risks it pays.

Rodriguez is the typical “scholarship boy.” However this is only true of his youth, and not his present. Follow his education, Hoggart states that the “scholarship boy belongs to no class.” He cannot face straight his own working-class, for that, since the discerning relations have gone, it would require a greater command facing him. This is not the case for Rodriguez who is not ashamed of his youth, but reflecting on his past, in an effort to understand his present. Although his childhood similarities with Hoggart’s model, Rodriguez have experienced no such trouble retrieve his friends and family from the abandoned class. The separation of his family caused by his pursuit of knowledge. According to Rodriguez, he ” spent three summer months living with his parents, relieved by how easy it was to be home. It no longer seemed very important to him that they had little to say”

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