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House on Mango Street

In: English and Literature

Submitted By oduhon
Words 3794
Pages 16
Simon Adelle
UCOR 102
Paper 3
Professor Marcum
Making It in A Man’s World April 29, 2013

“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros exposes the life of the main character, Esperanza, for one year as she struggles with trying to find her place in America as a Chicana young girl while also coming of age. The novel starts the day Esperanza and her family of six move into a house on Mango Street, and immediately she expresses her antipathy for not only the house, but also for the area in which they move into and the people around who judge them because of their ethnicity. The story is not told in the traditional format of a continuous story divided into chapters, but rather Cisneros uses forty-four vignettes to allow for the reader to fully understand why Esperanza has the struggles that she has. Along with Cisneros’ illustrating Esperanza’s looking for her identity through images of Esperanza’s thoughts and female obedience, symbolism of violence, legs, the Statue for Liberty, and Nenny, and diction of Spanish words, not using quotation marks, and a maturing tone, she also uses these them to permeate Esperanza’s desperation to leave Mango Street throughout the whole novel.
Cisneros’ use of vignettes highlights important moments in Esperanza’s life that emphasize how she develops over the course of a year. Cisneros uses the brevity of the vignettes to enhance the imagery to give the most vivid image through her limited amount of words for each of the forty-four vignettes. Not writing in these vignettes would have allowed her to portray more lengthy and not as focused images to her readers with more words over longer chapters. Because each chapter is very succinct, it provides readers with short and brief images that reflect the initial thoughts in Esperanza’s mind. As the story prolongs through the novel, the vignettes become more complex. This also provides the image of Esperanza’s growing maturity because as the novel prevails, her thoughts and actions also get more complex and mature. Esperanza’s premature behavior and complex thought processes can be seen in “Boys and Girls”. It is the third vignette and only half a page long where she speaks about how her brothers will not speak to her and her sister outside the house because “the boys and the girls live in separate worlds” (Cisneros 8). In one of the last vignettes that is four pages long, “The Monkey Garden”, Esperanza realizes over the past year that boys and girls are actually not living in separate worlds, and then these boys take advantage of her friend, Sally, by not giving Sally’s keys back until she kisses each one of them on the lips. Sally is okay with it saying, “It was just a kiss, that’s all. A kiss for each one. So what” (Cisneros 97). Esperanza goes to one of the boys’ mom’s to tell on him for tricking Sally, but when she does not react, Esperanza tries to handle the situation herself with a brick and three sticks; however the boys and Sally just laugh at her. Just as this vignette is longer and more complex than “Boys and Girls”, so is Esperanza’s maturity as witnessed in her actions and words in the two vignettes regarding boys and girls.
The force behind Esperanza’s maturity is her continuous search of her identity and her way out of Mango Street. From a young age, she knows she is different as a Latino from the other kids based on skin color, but she is starting to recognize the difference between male and female roles in her society since she is now growing into her pre-teen/ teenage years. In order to learn how to be the woman that her society expects her to be, she turns to many of the older girls in her neighborhood. There is a different story for each female that Esperanza interacts with and tries to emulate and learn from. These stories share similar plots: the females are locked up in the house by the forcefulness of the males’ not allowing them to leave and live their own lives, such as Marin in “Maurin” (Cisneros 26), Alicia in “Alicia Who Sees Mice” (Cisneros 31), and Rafaela in “Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays” (Cisneros 79). The vignettes provide an image of women in this Latino society bowing down to the orders of the men by the pattern of all the vignettes story lines being the same, but just having different characters. This pattern the gives Esperanza a distorted view on women that she carries with the rest of the novel as she tries to develop her own identity away from this obedient female stature.
One way that Esperanza wants to gain her own identity is by having control of how other people perceive her. The Social Science Quarterly specifies why it is so hard for Esperanza to control how people perceive when her when it states, “It is generally accepted that racial and ethnic discrimination is a common experience for many members of minority groups in the United States” (Lavariega 245). In greater detail about Esperanza’s minority group, they say that “perceptions of internal discrimination are greatest among Latinos” (Lavariega 261). An image of Esperanza not having control is seen in “A Rice Sandwich” (Cisneros 43) where a nun at Esperanza’s school will not let her eat lunch with all the other kids because she lives to close to home because she assumes that Esperanza lives in the unkempt, disgusting house just three blocks away. In reality, she will not let Esperanza eat because of her race. Her challenge is to overcome these discriminations in order for her identity to not be associated with being poor, dirty, and all other degrading perceptions of Latinos. She feels that leaving Mango Street is biggest thing she can do for her identity because everyone who lives on Mango Street is perceived the same compared to and by those who do not live on Mango Street.
Cisneros’ strong incorporation of symbolism in violence, the female body, the Statue of Liberty, and Nenny also contributes to the theme of searching for identity and desperation for leaving Mango Street. All throughout the novel, Cisernos uses violence as a symbol for masculinity, manhood, and strength, in which they show through violent and sexual assaults. The Social Science quarterly discusses violence in Esperanza’s specific community when it says, “Studies of Chicanos and Latin Americans have placed great emphasis on machismo, or manliness, which is reputed to be a cultural trait predisposing men to exaggerated sense of honor” (Howard 237). This source shows that not only is violence a symbol of male dominance and prominence over females, but it is also a fact and a reality. Howard continues to say, “Many popular accounts of machismo portray it as encompassing a strong emphasis on sex-role differentiation, with a concomitant emphasis on physical aggressiveness” (Howard 236). Esperanza’s desperation to leave Mango Street is seen in this symbol because upon leaving Mango Street, she can escape the machismos. These machismos and their violence increase Esperanza’s struggle for her own identity because they already set up the statue for a female in the society that is impossible to escape without escaping the machismos. Esperanza witnesses second-hand the violence of a father from her friend, Sally, when she repeats Sally’s words, “He never hits me hard…he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt” (Cisneros 92-92). Sally’s father uses violence on Sally whenever he knows of her messing with boys because he does not want her interacting with boys. He wants to show that he has control over who his daughter talks to. Esperanza knows that the first step in having her own identity is leaving Mango Street because leaving Mango Street also means leaving behind the degrading expectations of a female that she is expected to live up to, which is why she so desperate to do so.
In the vignette “The Family of Little Feet” (Cisneros 39-42), the legs of Esperanza and her two friends Lucy and Rachel are seen as symbols for femininity and women finding a place where they belong. In this vignette, the girls find high-heeled shoes. The shoes fit the feet of the girls perfectly, paralleling the fairy-tale Cinderella when the glass slipper fits no other foot except Cinderella’s. The shoes make the girls feel as if they have finally reached womanhood status and because their society gives the young girls the false impression that to be a woman is to attract the male gaze, they parade down the street in their new-found femininity. The story highlights the girls getting attention from the males based on what they are wearing. This emphasizes the way men objectify women in society and sexualizes them even at a young age. It shows that the girls are way too young to try to be women. They are not ready for the reality of the male gaze when attention from a bum scares Lucy and Esperanza but Rachel contemplates taking a dollar from him to kiss him. This shows that legs also stand for the false impression of what being a woman is all about to the younger girls in this community. They do not that think that they can make something of themselves because they have been shown that they must grow-up to be sexy and obedient to their husbands. The passive, innocent moment of the Cinderella fairytale also gives a false impression of life as a woman because it gives false hope that everything in life will be happily ever after, but Esperanza does not see anybody living happily ever after on Mango Street. Esperanza cannot find her identity on Mango Street because here, her identity of a woman is already established as shown through femininity standing for being overly sexy and women’s places in society being for their bodies, and it continues to be shown throughout the novel through symbols of hips, legs, and sex.
Although the women in this Latino community are not equal to the males, a common factor between the Latino males and females is that they all look toward the Statue of Liberty for hope. Immigrants come to America in hopes of freedom, but upon arriving they notice that freedom does not come that easy for is not distributed as fairly as they thought it would be, but the statue still remains a symbol in the vignette “Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold” (Cisneros 19-20) for equality and freedom. In this story, Esperanza buys a figurine of the Statue of Liberty for ten cents at a thrift shop. The idea of inclusion and exclusion is seen through this symbol because the statue gives immigrants a feeling of inclusiveness in America, yet they are shown exclusiveness by the American society. The idea of a thrift shop also is that just because something has no value left to someone does not mean that it will not have value to another person. Someone sold that Statue of Liberty figurine to the thrift because they take that freedom for granted. Esperanza then buys it as a reminder and a symbol of hope and for what all she will be able to see if she leaves Mango Street. The action of her buying it for a dime is also a symbol that her freedom does not cost very much; all she has to do is leave Mango Street so that she can find her identity when she discovers herself and to not be trapped by her Latino heritage.
While also at the thrift shop during the same vignette, Nenny embarrasses Esperanza by asking the sales person how much an ornate music box costs. Esperanza says, “But Nenny, who is stupider, already asking how much and I can see fingers going for the quarters in her pocket” (Cisneros 20). Another situation when Esperanza has thought of Nenny as stupid, dumb, and naïve is in “Hips” when Esperanza states, “I can tell Lucy and Rachel are disgusted, but they don’t say anything because she’s my sister” (Cisneros 52). In the vignette “Boys & Girls” Esperanza says, “Nenny is too young to be my friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t puck your sisters, you just get them and sometimes they come like Nenny” (Cisneros 8). Esperanza did not choose Nenny as her sister, nor would she have chosen her if she had the choice, especially since Nenny follows Esperanza everywhere and hangs out with all of her friends. Since Esperanza cannot control that Nenny is her sister, Nenny becomes a symbol from then on out for everything else that Esperanza cannot control: her race, where she lives, the house she lives in, her age, and her gender. Just as Nenny follows her everywhere she goes, those five listed attributes of Esperanza follow her everywhere as well. Even though she cannot control that she is Latino and where and in what she lives, she is still judged for not being white and for living in a poor neighborhood for not having any worth. Her age and gender also follow her where ever she goes, such as carnivals. Because of her age, gender, and heritage, she also cannot control what happens in “Red Clowns”. Esperanza is telling Sally that at a carnival they went to together, a red clown “grabbed my arm, he wouldn’t let me go. He said I love you, Spanish girl, I love you, and pressed his sour mouth to mine. Sally, make him stop. I couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t go anything but cry” (Cisneros 100). In Maria de Valdes’ critical essay, she also focuses on Esperanza’s search for identity, but in doing so she attests that, “ “A Smart Cookie” touches one of the most sensitive areas of the text: the mother-daughter relationship” (de Valdes 4). Esperanza’s getting raped in “Red Clowns” can be more heavily considered the most sensitive area of the text because Esperanza could not control the situation, so it gives off this moment of weakness coming from her age, gender, and heritage. From this incident, Esperanza sees that what she thought being a woman was all about is not all want she wants, so this symbol of Nenny being everything she cannot control is the fuel for Esperanza to find her own identity and not just a Spanish girl used for sexual pleasures. Although Esperanza cannot control that her family is of Latin-American descent, she can control how she handles the pressure of trying to fit into the American culture and society. Because brevity is a distinct quality of vignettes, Cisneros’ diction in each vignette explicitly shows how Esperanza copes with the mixing of the two cultures. In many of her vignettes, she replaces certain words for the Spanish version of those words, such as “Your mama’s frijoles” (Cisneros 38), “You’re abuelito is dead, Papa says early one morning in my room. Esta muerto, and then as if he just heard the news himself…” (Cisneros 56), “Good, she says, los espiritus are here. And begins” (Cisneros 63), and “Then one day Mamacita and the baby boy arrived in a yellow taxi” (Cisneros 76). When she includes these words, they do not interrupt the flow of the sentence or of the vignette as a whole. Esperanza’s easy transition between Spanish words and English words promote feelings of inclusion and exclusion when reading the novel. These feelings, although they are opposite, then provide a sense of confidence that Esperanza feels in her ability to balance the two cultures. Cisneros’ use of Spanish diction provides a sense of inclusion in the Latino culture as well as an exclusion from it if readers do not know what the words mean. Cisneros also does not provide a translation for the Spanish words she uses. No translation forces the two cultures to also mix together for the readers who do not know the Spanish language. Those readers who do not know Spanish may feel lost in the story when these words appear just as Esperanza may sometimes feel lost trying to make an identity for herself in the American culture. Being a female, Esperanza feels forced to bow down to the male ways, and being a Chicana, she sometimes feels forced to give into the American ways of things, but Cisneros’ not giving a translation is her way of not giving into the dominant culture’s expectations in order to be understood, which highlights the ways in which Esperanza does not always give in either.
Also pertaining to diction is Cisneros lack of the use of quotation marks. The whole novel is not just centered around Esperanza’s thoughts either; she does include what other characters say, but when they speak, there is no “And then Sally said” or “said Nenny”. Instead, Cisneros constructs her sentences like “The Eskimos got thirty different names for snow, I say. I read it in a book. I got a cousin, Rachel says. She got three different names” (Cisneros 35). Quotation marks take the reader out of the mind of Esperanza, so when there are none, it forces the readers to stay in her mind for the whole novel. The significance of staying in Esperanza’s mind is that from the first vignette to the last, the readers have no choice but to stay in the perspective of this young, Latino, girl, which is a perspective that few of the readers have. The readers’ not being able to leave that specific perspective heightens the understanding of the depth of Esperanza’s desperation to leave Mango Street and gives the readers more an understanding the difficulties and barriers Esperanza must overcome to find who she is for herself and not for what her society tells her to be.
From the first vignette to the last vignette, a significant difference between the complexity and diction of the sentence structure can be seen just as a significant difference in the maturity of Esperanza can also be seen between these two vignettes. The lengths of the sentences may be different, but are still both fairly simple to understand. This use of diction reflects Esperanza in the way that from the beginning to the end of the novel, her yearning to say good-bye to Mango Street may increase (just as the sentences get longer), but her reasoning to is still just as simple as it was on the beginning: to find her own identity. In the beginning of the novel, she is not aware of the expectations she is expected to fulfill as a female and as a Latino-American, but the maturity of her awareness as the novel progresses is witnessed in the tone from vignette to vignette. In Thomas Mathcie’s critical essay, he stresses Esperanza’s development through her journey on Mango Street for the year that Esperanza writes about. For part of his argument, he states that “In Mango Street Cisneros has created the voice of a child, who is a poet, a writer. For the most part that voice is consistent, but sometimes not” (Matchie 4). In another part when still talking about tone he says, “In this case it is the author who seems to be speaking” (Matchie 5). The childish tone that he says is prominent almost the whole time is really only prominent in the first few vignettes. Even by the eighth vignette, “Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold”, Esperanza already is developing an understanding of her social stature as a young, Latino girl. Her tone develops as the vignettes progress, as can be seen in “Red Clowns” discussed earlier. This tone is much more mature and has a greater understanding of the cruelty of the world that she did not have in the first vignette when he first moves onto Mango Street. The tone is felt by the readers because Esperanza is speaking the whole time. The readers are never in the mind of the author or hear that the author is speaking because they never leave the mind of Esperanza for all forty-four vignettes. This tone is important to understanding Esperanza’s maturity because just as the tone develops, Esperanza’s identity also develops. Unfortunately, as seen in “Red Clowns”, her identity is conforming to the identity forced upon her by society, which motivates her to leaver Mango Street more and more.
Esperanza’s search for identity in Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” is not an easy one, and she still has not found her identity by the end. Cisneros uses images reflecting the thoughts of Esperanza and of females trapped behind the orders of males, symbols of violence, legs, the Stature of Liberty, and Nenny, and diction including Spanish words and a developing, maturing tone to show Esperanza’s struggles and why she does not have her own identity by the end. What little identity Esperanza does have is one molded more by her society and less of who she wants to be. The only way Esperanza can develop her sense of identity is leaving Mango Street and its community, which is where all her problems arise. Cisneros uses forty-four vignettes to give her novel a lyrical sense as well as to take advantage of the images and brevity that vignettes supply. Because Cisneros’ novel is centered around a coming-of-age girl, and young girl can read “The House on Mango Street” and relate to the Esperanza, but not until those readers are older can they fully understand Esperanza’s struggles in her Latino society dominated by prejudice perceptions and violent males.
Works Cited
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print. de Valdés, Maria Elena. "In Search of Identity in Cisneros' The House on Mango Street." The Canadian Review of American Studies 23.1 (Fall 1992): 55-72. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Timothy J. White. Vol. 118. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999.Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.
Erlanger, Howard S. “Estrangement, Machismo and Gang Violence.” Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press) 60.2 (1979): 235-248. America: History & Life. Web. 22 Apr. 2013.
Lavariega Monforti, Jessica and Gabriel R. Sanchez. “The Politics of Perception: An Investigation Of The Presence And Sources Of Perception Of Internal Discrimination Among Latinos.” Social Science Quarterly (Blackwell Publishing Limited) 91.1 (2010): 245-265. America: History & Life. Web. 22 Apr. 2013
Matchie, Thomas. "Literary Continuity in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street." The Midwest Quarterly 37.1 (Autumn 1995): 67-79. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna J. Sheets. Vol. 32. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Apr.
2013.

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...from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.” • The except “The Three Sisters” is chapter 41 from the novel The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros published in 1984. • The chapter starts of by talking about three sisters, aunts, and they are las comadres and that is a Spanish term given to Godmother, ‘one with laughter like tin and on with eyes of a cat and one with hands like porcelain’. This gave a thought of maybe witches and further research of the novel/chapter reveals that they are representations of the “three fates” of ancient mythology and these are women who decide, death, birth and lengths of lives. • Lucy and Rachel’s baby sister died, and there was wake or a viewing that happened in their home, ‘anybody who had ever wondered what color the walls were came and came to look at that little thumb of a human in a box like candy’. • Esperanza then makes a wishes and the sister who had ‘marble hands’ called her over to tell her something. o “When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. … You must remember to come back. For the ones who cannot leave as easily as you.” • “The story approaches the fantastical here (in Esperanza’s point of view), as the sisters seem to read Esperanza’s mind and predict her future. They recognize that Esperanza is already strong enough to leave Mango Street,......

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...Comparative Essay: gender roles in The House on Mango Street and Annie John Question 3: To what extent do male and female literary characters accurately reflect the role of men and women in society? In this essay I will analyse to what extent the characters in the novels The House on Mango Street (text A), by Sandra Cisneros, and Annie John (text B), by Jamaica Kincaid, reflect the role of men and women in society. These two novels criticise patriarchal societies, where “women are taught to think as men, identify with a male point of view and to accept as normal and legitimate a male system of values…” . In both of them, there are clear examples of chauvinism, which conditions the lives of Esperanza Cordero, a “Chicana” who lives in a Latin neighbourhood in the USA called Mango Street; and Annie John, who passes her childhood and part of her adolescence in Antigua, an island in the Caribbean which until 1981 was a British colony. In the following paragraphs, I will describe and analyse diverse illustrations of patriarchal society seen in both novels. These examples will be used to explain male and female roles in this kind of society. Firstly, both societies are more permissive with men than with women. In this way, males are allowed to act freely, while women are constantly being judged for their actions. In text A, we can notice Rosa Vargas’s situation. As the text says, “she is the only one against so many […] [and] cries everyday for the man who left without even...

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...Athalia Mclean Professor Thomas English 150 11 March 2016 Overcoming life Growing up we all has our childhood struggles that we aren't in crony too of. Although things are out of our hands we have the power to change them. For some this change is so imperative they can't but attacks it head on. In “The House on Mango Street “ by Sandra Cisneros and “The Lesson “ by Tori Cade Bambara both characters are made aware of their social status. Despite both being bothered by it one decides to take it initiative, while the other accepts it. In “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara Sylvia was challenged by Mrs. Moore when she took them on a field trip to F.O.A Schwarz and introduced them to life outside of their neighborhood. The children were not used to this this type of environment to they felt out of place. When they arrived to a popular toy store Sylvia was afraid to go inside, while the other children Boldly step past her. As they embark upon the pricey merchandise they question how people can afford these items. Bambara writes “ Who are these people that spend that much for clowns and 1,000 for toy sail boats? What kind of work do they do and how do they live and how come we ain't in on it ?” (335) In that moment the thought triggers in Sylvia mind, why are these people able to buy such expensive things and why are we not on that level. She started to become aware of the social economic Hierarchy, and the imbalance of wealth being spread amount people.......

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... The Novel “The House on Mango Street,” takes the one on a journey through the eyes of a young girl named Esperanza. Initially, Esperanza appears to be an unreliable narrator because of the characters oblivious actions and the authors writing style and use of vignettes. However, the concise and brief approach gives the story more depth and allows one to become immersed in the story. The novel becomes animated with Cisneros less is more approach; the imagination springs alive with the minimal details. Cisneros emphasis is the fact that Esperanza’s perception changes throughout the story. Esperanza is on a pursuit to find herself and her true identity as she becomes a woman. In the story, the author explains how Esperanza feels that she is being held back by her social standing. Cisneros shows that Esperanza’s families’ social status is at a disadvantage and that she fits the stereotypical Chicana profile. Cisneros highlighted this by Esperanza’s family and their poverty. Patriarchal standards are also present in the story and tells how women in her community are held back because of this. The story expresses how Esperanza develops and overcomes her identity issues; Esperanza achieves this by learning about the community she belongs to. Moreover, by Esperanza focusing on the bigger picture, which is how to overcome the expectations that have been assumed to her. The narrator feels as if she does not belong to the community, and she dreams of leaving Mango Street. However, the......

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Sandra Cisnero

...novella, a volume of poems, and a book of short fiction--Chicana feminist Sandra Cisneros has become widely read and known. Cisneros blurs lines between genres, calling her fiction, often vignettes rather than structured narratives, "lazy poems" ("Do You Know Me?" 79). Her Bildungsroman, The House on Mango Street, is read both as a young adult novel and as a work of adult fiction, and her most recent book of short stories, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991), includes prose poems similar to those in Mango Street [The House on Mango Street], and longer works. Most of her fiction is composed as first-person narratives told to us by the central protagonist. She speaks for people like herself or whom she has known--Mexican and Chicana girls and women who grew up "on the borderlands." According to Cisneros, "If I were asked what it is I write about, I would have to say I write about those ghosts inside that haunt me" ("Ghosts and Voices" 73). Part of those ghosts are the myths and legends of the borderlands, which can hold women back in their quests for self-identity, or, when creatively adapted, can offer possibilities for constructing new cultural motifs. In The House on Mango Street, like Cisneros's childhood home, located in Chicago's barrio, the protagonist Esperanza says, "Mexicans don't like their women strong" (10). One could say that all of Cisneros's female characters either struggle to be strong and succeed, thus transcending culturally dictated gender......

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