In "The Hunger of Memory," what is the meaning of "taken Caliban's advice. I have stolen their books..."?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Rodriguez's 1982 book The Hunger of Memory reflects on his educational journey from a Spanish-speaking son of Mexican immigrants to a PhD candidate who ultimately rejected a career in academia.  Rodriguez's allusion to Caliban comes from Shakespeare's 1610 play The Tempest. Caliban, enslaved by Prospero, wants to steal Prospero's books because he believes them to be full of magic, hence power—and a way to free himself from enslavement.

Rodriguez alludes to the magical power of books, generally, as agents of transformation in his life.  By "their" books in your quotation, Rodriguez means "Anglo" culture. He believed, at this point in his intellectual development, that it offered a power that he would not find in his own family's traditions, including language and culture. In retrospect, Rodriguez observes that in immersing himself in the English language he has sacrificed his Mexican American culture and Spanish language.  He is never truly bilingual. In choosing to steal the "magic" contained in these books as a ticket to a form of freedom, Rodriguez loses a major part of himself.

malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a literary allusion (reference) to the character Caliban in Shakespeare's play, "The Tempest." Caliban is a monster who has been enslaved by Prospero the magician who landed on Caliban's island when he and his daughter were put out to sea to die. Caliban resents the power Prospero holds over him, so when other men are shipwrecked on the island, Caliban tries to convince them to help him kill Prospero so he can steal his books and magic.

As a major theme of "Hunger" is education and the strong desire for it, the allusion the author uses makes a great deal of sense.

Check the links below for more information. Good luck!

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Hunger of Memory

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