|Aria: Memoir of a Bilingual Childhood
QUESTIONS ON RHETORIC AND STYLE
In his essay “Aria,” Richard Rodriguez offers a tribute to Spanish, his immigrant family’s
“private” language, and then goes on to conclude that he does not want to see this
language integrated into English-based education. This piece is unusual in the way it
combines two essay forms: memoir (which is narrative driven) and argument. As you
read “Aria,” pay close attention to the structure and the ways in which Rodriguez uses
personal experience to support his policy argument against bilingual education in schools.
1. What is an “aria”? Why do you think Rodriguez chose it for his title? Is it
2. How do the first four paragraphs appeal to ethos?
3. Describe the tone of paragraph 5 where Rodriguez first raises the issue of
bilingual education. Cite specific language to support your description.
4. Why does Rodriguez emphasize the sound of language? Is this an appeal to logos,
pathos, or both?
5. Although the entire essay is not strictly chronological, Rodriguez does structure it
with signals to chronology. Where are they, and why are they appropriate and
6. How would you describe Rodriguez’s attitude toward his parents? Does it change
from one point to another? Identify specific passages.
7. In several sections, Rodriguez makes his point by narrative (such as the moment
in school when he first hears his name). How does narrative contribute to the
effectiveness of Rodriguez’s argument?
8. Where in the essay does Rodriguez present his most straightforward argument? Is
it effective? Would it have been more effective if it had been placed nearer the
9. What are the major counterarguments that Rodriguez addresses? (He does not
address them all at once; identify specific passages.)
10. What weakness are “middle-class ethnics” guilty of, according to Rodriquez?
11. Rodriguez uses very little Spanish in this essay. Why does he choose to use it
when he does? Identify specific passages.
12. Who do you think is the intended audience for this essay? Cite passages to
support your viewpoint?
13. What is the tone in the final paragraphs?
What would have been the effect of eliminating these paragraphs?