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A careful analysis of this excellent novel reveals that the conflict facing Esperanza operates on many different levels. On the one hand, it is an external conflict, as Mango Street is shown to be part of a barrio where the people who live in it struggle against prejudice, poverty and oppression. Even those who should know better, such as the nun in the very first vignette, judge Esperanza and those in Mango Street based on the quality of their accommodation:
You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded.
This is a theme that runs throughout the novel, as various characters face this conflict of being judged based on their skin colour, their ethnicity, the language that they speak and where they live.
Yet at the same time, we see that Esperanza also faces a massive internal conflict that is based around expectations and the lives that other women lead. As she grows up, Esperanza sees women marry young, have children young, and suffer domestic abuse as they are trapped in so many different ways. In "Beautiful and Cruel," we see how Esperanza responds to the internal conflict of being forced to choose between following societal expectations and making her own way. In a sense, of course, this is also an external conflict, as Esperanza feels the pressure that others place upon her to be more feminine, for example her parents. Note how this conflict, and Esperanza's response, is presented:
My mother says when I get older my dusty hair will settle and my blouse will learn to stay clean, but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.
Esperanza deliberately decides to be different from the other "tame" women around her by standing up for herself and not accepting a situation that would entrap her. There will be no "ball and chain" for her.
Thus we can see that Esperanza faces many different kinds of conflict in this excellent novel.
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