Sandra Cisneros The House On Mango Street Essay
At the same time, the book’s strength as literature is that it tells the story of a unique girl in a unique place — a Mexican-American girl in the neighborhoods of Chicago whose life is focused not only on the changes in her body but also on her need to figure out how to maneuver in the broader world. [They’ll] move a little farther north from Mango Street, a little farther away every time people like us keep moving in. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler.
Esperanza lives in a community that is made up of newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and first-generation Americans, but also includes black and white people from such places as Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can’t remember. Esperanza’s age is never given, but, from the text, it appears she’s about 12 or 13 at the start of the novel which covers the family’s first year in their house.
An older boy named Sire is watching her as he rides his bike past her, and they exchange glances: I looked because I wanted to be brave, straight into the dusty cat fur of his eyes and the bike stopped and he bumped into a parked car, bumped, and I walked fast. Yet, the transition from child to adult is painful and harrowing for Esperanza. But, she is told by family and friends, she can never fully leave.
Meanwhile, Esperanza as the eldest will tell her brothers and sister the news and explain to them the need to be quiet and respectful.
Later, at a carnival, an older boy sexually assaults her — “only his dirty fingernails against my skin, only his sour-smell again…He wouldn’t let me go. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias.
He said I love you, I love you, Spanish girl.” “All my own” Like generations of other children of immigrants, Esperanza yearns for her own life, one that is not circumscribed by the world of her parents or her neighborhood.
She wants to leave the house on Mango Street for a house of her own — “a house on a hill like the ones with the gardens where Papa works.” For a Sunday drive, the family goes to those richer neighborhoods with the richer houses and rubbernecks at the elegance, beauty and stateliness of the buildings.
But Esperanza doesn’t go any longer, “tired of looking at what we can’t have.” Instead, she imagines the future: Not a flat.