What are some figures of speech in Hunger of Memory?

Quick answer:

In this chapter, Rodriguez uses several figures of speech, or "tropes." The tropes he employs include simile, metaphor, and hyperbole.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the first chapter ("Aria") of Hunger of Memory , Rodriguez, a native Spanish-speaker, recalls entering an elementary school classroom "able to understand some fifty stray English words." The use of the word "stray" here is figurative, used to make it seem as if the words have strayed into his...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

vocabulary from their rightful place.

In the same chapter, Rodriguez recalls the last sight he has of his mother that morning as she drops him off at his classroom: "I turned to see my mother's face dissolve in a watery blur behind the pebbled glass door." His mother's face doesn't literally dissolve; he is figuratively describing how she fades from his view through a piece of textured glass in the classroom's door.

Also in "Aria," Rodriguez uses a simile to describe the effect of hearing his father trying to communicate with an English-speaking auto repair shop employee. Rodriguez recalls, "At one point his words slid together to form one word — sounds as confused as the threads of blue and green oil in the puddle next to my shoes."

A final example of figurative language from the first chapter is found in the way Rodriguez characterizes his own unease as he is caught between what he calls the "public language" of English and the "private language" of home:

I remained a child longer than most; I lingered too long, poised at the edge of language — often frightened by the sounds of los gringos, delighted by the sounds of Spanish at home.

His use of the image of being "poised at the edge of language" is figurative, since language is an abstract, rather than concrete, phenomenon.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rodriguez employs various figures of speech in his description of his past and what happened to him as a scholarship boy in terms of the distance he felt springing up between him and his humble Mexican, campesino roots. At one point in this account, he talks about the way in which writing about scholarship students from the point of view of developing their intellectual independence:

Paragraphs glitter with a constellation of terms like creativity and originality.

Note the use of the implied metaphor to compare the frequency with which this terms appear to the stars in the sky. Clearly he is trying to emphasise the way that these two words are used again and again to describe scholarship students. The irony, as he goes on to say, is that the imitative nature of being a scholarship student is never mentioned.

He also uses another figure of speech to describe what he did as a scholarship boy and how he developed himself through education:

I was a scholarship boy at the time, busily laddering my way up the rungs of education.

Note again the implied metaphor where his study and hard work in school is compared to climbing up a ladder, the ladder of education, moving himself ever higher in the world, and also, incidentally, making himself more and more distant from his parents and his background.

Approved by eNotes Editorial