In his essay, Richard Rodriguez recounts an incident in his life to highlight the challenges within his family. With the use of specific details, he shows how societal changes can lead to a family growing distant and detached. As the family became wealthier, their cultural identity was lost. Rodriguez vividly portrays this cultural shift through a Christmas gathering. Furthermore, Rodriguez’s mother had high expectations for her children to pursue professional careers and attain financial success.
According to Rodriguez, his family used to associate wealth with gifts and presents, joking that they would receive many presents because of their financial success. However, as professionalism has taken precedence in their lives, their familial relationships have become based on professionalism rather than joy. Rodriguez employs vivid descriptions and images, such as his mother’s “feet wreathed with gifts” and everyone’s evident fatigue, to convey his belief that his family has become dull and overly focused on work, lacking the joy they once had when celebrating Christmas together.
The author expresses the idea of discomfort and unease in a shared loving situation by using words like “tired” and “uncomfortably warm” to describe the high temperature or the professionalism of the individuals involved. The concept of change over time is reintroduced, as even a long-standing holiday like Christmas has evolved from one generation to the next. For instance, the author portrays their mother as both surrounded by presents but also appearing “very small” and “worried” in their perspective, suggesting that presents alone may not satisfy her.
The author, Rodriguez, expresses a sense of sorrow for the Christmas celebrations of the past. They were once personal and warm, but now feel obligatory. Rodriguez utilizes descriptive language to portray his family as distant, professional, and impersonal. He employs specific details and words to highlight the uncomfortable atmosphere created by his professional family. The author notes that his mother’s feet are “wreathed with gifts,” indicating that the holiday season has become overwhelming.
The author expresses that his family’s Christmas has become overly materialistic and Americanized, emphasizing this by saying that everyone is exhausted by the time all the presents have been opened. He also depicts his mother’s sadness and anxiety as she gazes at expensive foreign cars, which symbolize how distant her children have become due to their extravagant lifestyles. The use of the word “sharply” suggests that these cars deeply affect her, piercing through her emotions.
Rodriguez reflects on the evolution of his family over generations, highlighting the disparity between his parents’ desire for wealth and their children’s current prosperity. The parents now feel a sense of despair as their offspring not only accomplished the American Dream they once yearned for, but are also living a dream that appeared impossible to them. By employing a narrative structure, Rodriguez allows readers to encounter and interpret events from his personal point of view.
Beginning with his mother’s optimistic vision of their prosperous future, the narrator recounts an event that takes place on Christmas. This storytelling technique provides a means to contrast the past and the present. In the past, the mother longed for numerous gifts for her children, symbolizing their achievements and victories. Today, the abundance of presents serves as evidence that his family has indeed achieved success.
In spite of his parents’ success, the narrator illustrates their detached relationship by highlighting his mother’s anxiety and his father’s lack of communication throughout the evening. This shows the contrast between their achievements and their strained family dynamics. Instead of fostering close ties, they prioritize materialism and pursue the American Dream, which has transformed into an American Nightmare for their parents.