It’s now time to increase text complexity. The next two texts from Richard Rodriguez and Richard Wright serve to build on background knowledge while increasing complexity in text and analysis. Let’s look at Rodriguez first:
“It was always a man’s voice. Mexico pleaded with my mother. He wanted her back. Mexico swore he could not live without her. Mexico cried like a woman. Mexico raged like a bull. He would cut her throat. He would die if she didn’t come back.”
-From Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father.
New York: Penguin Books. Copyright 1993 by Richard Rodriguez.
The personification of “Mexico” is so prominent students will ask if Mexico is a person. But instead the technique serves to exemplify the power and conflict in the text. “Mother” immigrated to the United States for a better life for her children but her Mexican culture tears at her and pleads for her return. The metaphor is like an abusive relationship with Mexico using threats of violence to control the Mother of the text. The short telegraphic simple structure gives a matter of fact tone of power and control, highlighting the seriousness and conflict that comes with immigrating to the United States and leaving behind your previous culture. Mom is experiencing a sense of loss and grief, and the short telegraphic sentences mimic that lack of contentment through their abrupt rhythm. The similes further the controlling demanding tone, “cried like a woman,” “raged like a bull.” Words like “pleaded,” “swore” and “cut her throat,” further the controlling tone and highlight the author’s message of the conflicted character. She is torn between what’s best for her family and her Mexican heritage. Students should use their analysis of Richard Wright’s Native Son to help them understand the effect of the techniques.
The next text is by Richard Wright. Watch how the author uses “hunger” the same way Rodriguez uses “Mexico. ”
“Hunger had always been more or less at my elbow when I played, but now I began to wake up at night to find hunger standing at my bedside, staring at me gauntly. “
-From Black Boy by Richard Wright. Copyright 1945.
New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005.
With similar technique and meaning students should continue to take on more responsibility with their analysis. Using what they’ve learned from analyzing Rodriguez and applying that to Wright’s Hunger excerpt.
Below are the assignments accompanying this blog. The next post will tackle common mistakes by the students.
By: Tyler Ham (AP English Language and Composition teacher, National Board Certified Teacher, national consultant, and exam Reader from Spokane, WA)