Study Guide

The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street Summary

Overview

The House on Mango Street

Summary of the Novel
The House on Mango Street is comprised of 44 short character sketches, or stories, called vignettes. They are narrated by Esperanza, who just moved with her family to Mango Street, in the barrio. Esperanza hates their house on Mango Street because it is not a “real” house, like the ones she’s seen on TV.

Esperanza, whose name means “hope,” soon meets Lucy and Rachel, who she likes because they, too, are poor. She also meets Marin, who is wise about “women things” but is always stuck inside babysitting her cousins. She discovers the fear that outsiders have of her neighborhood, the fear that keeps their neighborhood “brown.” She becomes friends with Alicia, who goes to college at night so she will not be stuck “behind a rolling pin” the rest of her life.

Lucy, Rachel, and Esperanza are given several pairs of old high-heeled shoes, which they put on and wear around the neighborhood. At first they feel beautiful and powerful, but soon they discover that the shoes are “dangerous.” At school, Esperanza is humiliated by the Sister Superior, who assumes Esperanza lives in the worst house in the neighborhood.

Esperanza’s Aunt Lala gets her a job at a photo store, where an old man gives her a lewd kiss. Esperanza feels bad because she and her friends, in a game, made fun of her invalid Aunt Lupe, who died shortly thereafter. Aunt Lupe had listened to Esperanza’s poems and encouraged Esperanza to write.

Later, Esperanza has her fortune told by Elenita, the “witch woman.” Elenita tells Esperanza that she will have “a home in the heart.” Esperanza, who wants a “real” house, is disappointed by this fortune. Meanwhile, Sire, a boy in the neighborhood, awakens Esperanza’s sexuality: She knows he is looking at her, and she dares to look back.

Esperanza, comparing herself to the elm trees in front of her house, says they are the only ones who understand her because they don’t belong on Mango Street either. Meanwhile, Mamacita, the woman who lives across the street, refuses to learn English, and so she never leaves her apartment. Rafaela, another neighbor, is also stuck in her apartment; her husband locks her up whenever he goes out.

Esperanza befriends Sally, who is sad because everyone seems to think that because she is beautiful, she is bad. Minerva, just a few years older than they, already has children and a husband who beats her. Minerva and Esperanza share their poems with each other.

Esperanza vows that someday she will have a beautiful house and offer the attic to passing bums because she knows “how it is to be without a house.” She also decides to wage a “quiet war” against traditional female roles, because she is not beautiful like Sally and Nenny.

Esperanza learns that her mother “could’ve been somebody,” but she didn’t finish school because she was ashamed of her clothes. Esperanza also learns that Sally’s father often beats her. When Esperanza tries to protect Sally from the boys who are making her kiss them, Sally and the boys tell Esperanza to go away. Esperanza wants to die because she can’t understand the game they’re playing. Later, while waiting for Sally, who had run off with a boy, Esperanza is raped. Soon after, Sally gets married.

Then Esperanza meets the Three Sisters, Rachel and Lucy’s aunts. They read Esperanza’s palm and tell her that life is a circle; that she does belong to Mango Street, forever; and that if she leaves, she must return. Later, Alicia also tells Esperanza that she belongs to Mango Street and that she must come back. Finally, Esperanza begins to tell a story “about a little girl who didn’t want to belong,” the story of Mango Street.

The Life and Work of Sandra Cisneros
“If I were asked what it is I write about,” says Sandra Cisneros, “I would have to say I write about those ghosts inside that haunt me.” These ghosts—of poverty, sexism, and racism—populate The House on Mango Street, the novel that won Cisneros the Before Columbus American Book Award in 1985 and also won the hearts of thousands of readers across America. Originally published in 1984, this brilliant collage of character sketches and stories is revolutionary in its simple, honest look at issues such as the discrimination, poverty, and domestic violence faced by Mexican-American women.

What is so enchanting about Cisneros’ novel, for both young and adult readers, is not only its patchwork-quilt structure, the honesty of the narrator’s voice, or the beauty and simplicity of the language. Rather, the triumph of Mango Street is the way it empowers its readers. Full of characters who lack power—socially, politically, economically, and sexually—the novel is not a story of despair, but of hope, which is what the narrator’s name, Esperanza, means in English.

Cisneros, who was born in Chicago in 1954, is the only daughter in a family of six sons. Though she spent her childhood cramped in apartments much too small for her large family, she often felt alone. Her brothers “paired themselves off,” she says, thus leaving her “the odd-woman-out forever.” In addition, the Cisneros family moved around a great deal, shuttling back and forth between Chicago and Mexico City, where her father’s family lived. Cisneros was never in one place long enough to develop true friendships with other children her age.

Cisneros found refuge from her loneliness in reading. Books became her best friend, and she buried herself in them. It was not long before Cisneros began to compose stories in her head, forming narratives out of the daily events of her life. Fortunately for Cisneros, her mother, a Chicana (Mexican-American), supported her desire to read. To give her daughter the opportunities she herself was denied, Cisneros’ mother freed her from the traditional domestic duties of a Chicana female. She excused Cisneros from cooking, cleaning, and babysitting so Cisneros could study and read.

Growing up in a family full of men and in the barrios, Cisneros was well aware of the patriarchal structure of the Chicano society, which denied women equality at every level. As a teen she determined to fight this machismo (the Latin American term for male chauvinism) and to move from the ranks of the powerless to the powerful. Certainly her mother’s emphasis on education helped Cisneros in this quest. But it was through writing that she felt most able to help herself and other women.

In grade school Cisneros began recording her stories in a spiral notebook that she never showed to anyone. In high school, however, she was known among her classmates as a poet and was the editor of her school’s literary magazine. In her junior year at Loyola University of Chicago, where she received a B.A. in English, she took her first creative writing class.

It wasn’t until Cisneros attended the Writers Workshop in Iowa, however, that she found her true voice as a writer. There, she says, “for the first time in my life I felt ‘other’.” After thinking about what it was that made her different from her classmates, she realized that her impoverished childhood and the characters that populated her past were worthy of writing about because they were different from the mainstream, different from the “norm” that radiated from television sets across the nation.

After Iowa, Cisneros returned to the barrios to teach high-school dropouts. This didn’t leave her much time for writing, however, so she quit and took a job at Loyola, where she recruited and counseled minority and disadvantaged students. Both of these experiences were important in her development as a Chicana feminist and writer. The stories she heard from these students from the barrios were much like her own, and she realized there was a vast population of “the powerless” that she needed to address and whose stories needed to be told.

Cisneros began to incorporate these stories into the project she’d been working on since Iowa. The result was The House on Mango Street, a story whose protagonist discovers that power and peace come from recognizing one’s place in and one’s duty to the community.

Today, Cisneros is also the author of Woman Hollering Creek, a collection of short stories, and My Wicked Wicked Ways, a collection of poems. She has been awarded two NEA Fellowships for writing and a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship. Although she has not stopped writing, she has been teaching for the past several years as a guest writer at universities across the country.

Estimated Reading Time

Although a fast reader should be able to complete the novel in an hour, perhaps even less, The House on Mango Street deserves to be read at a somewhat slower pace. The brevity of the vignettes, the naturalness of the narrator’s voice, and the simplicity of the language make for easy and rapid reading. But this simplicity is deceptive. Though the vignettes are short, they are very rich, poetic, and full of meaning. This is a novel to be savored bite by bite, not swallowed whole. The reader would benefit from two or more short sittings of approximately 30 minutes each. If read in one sitting, the novel should be read slowly, with brief pauses between vignettes. The total reading time for the average reader should be approximately one and one-half to two and one-half hours.

The House on Mango Street Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

The House on Mango Street is Cisneros’s best-known work. Though it is made up of stories and sketches, some of which have been published separately, the collection has the unity of a novella. Cisneros has described the book as a connected collection, “each story a little pearl. . . . the whole thing like a necklace.” In her own mind, Esperanza Cordero, the narrator, has one main problem: She wants to have a house of her own. As the story develops, the meaning of having a house of her own grows richer and more complex, until finally, she understands that she wants not only a literal house but also “a home in the heart.” Furthermore, her one problem connects with many other problems that are clearer to the reader than to Esperanza, especially problems related to the roles and treatment accorded women in her culture and the problems of being Mexican American in U.S. culture.

Esperanza is the older of two daughters and has two brothers. Her wish for a house grows out of the family desire that is realized when they buy the house on Mango Street. This turns out not to be the home of which they have dreamed, with a large yard and many bathrooms, but the house they can afford, in a neighborhood being transformed into a ghetto. Esperanza’s disappointment sparks her wish. She also realizes after moving to Mango Street that she does not want to live her life as do most women whom she knows. She is named after her great-grandmother, a woman who refused to marry: “Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier. . . . And the story goes she never forgave him.”

Having inherited her great-grandmother’s name, Esperanza believes that she also has inherited her nature, a determination to be strong and to live independently. After young Esperanza is sexually assaulted at a carnival, she decides that she wants a house that belongs to her alone, not to any man. Her own bad experience confirms what she sees everywhere: that many women are seen as servants and property, their power and imagination imprisoned in houses that belong to husbands and fathers.

To Esperanza, a house comes to mean not only freedom from sexual oppression but also the freedom to pursue her vision of herself as an artist. Several times, Esperanza receives mysterious messages from seemingly spiritual sources that reveal what she must do to become an artist. Elenita, a medium, tells her mysteriously that she will have “a new house, a house made of heart.” At the wake for her friend Lucy’s baby sister, Esperanza meets three elderly sisters who see something special in her. They take her aside and tell her to make a wish. Seeming to know that Esperanza has wished to go away, they tell her, “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 must remember to come back. For the ones who cannot leave as easily as you.”

These messages tell Esperanza that she is destined to be a writer, to create an imaginary home out of the materials of her heart, which she will take with her wherever she goes and which will call her back to help those who are unable to leave. Near the end of the book, Esperanza’s friend Alicia asks her a question: If she does not return to make Mango Street better—presumably a better place for women and for Latinos—then who will do so? Esperanza then begins to see that, as a poet and storyteller, she will have a mission, to return not necessarily literally but certainly in her heart and mind, to make her people better known to themselves, to each other, and to the rest of U.S. culture.

The House on Mango Street Summary (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, speaks in an adolescent Chicana’s voice of coming-of-age in a poor Chicago neighborhood in the mid-twentieth century. Cisneros’ first book of fiction received immediate acclaim, becoming a widely studied text in schools and universities.

The novella consists of sketches, each exploring some aspect of the experiences of the narrator, Esperanza Cordero, after her family moves into a house of their own. These sketches are drawn from Cisneros’ own life; her family moved into a Puerto Rican neighborhood on Chicago’s north side during her twelfth year. Cisneros discovered this voice and subject in resistance against the pressure to conform to what she felt was, at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a “terrible East-coast pretentiousness.” She realized that growing up Chicana in Chicago set her apart from most other writers. Esperanza’s story also is one of resistance, especially against the expectations for women in her culture. She and her family have dreamed of having an even grander home, but she discovers strongly ambivalent feelings about home once they have one. On one hand, it is a place to be and to become. On the other, it is a sort of prison, especially for women.

In “The Family of Little Feet,” Esperanza and two girlfriends get high-heeled shoes and wander playfully into the neighborhood, imagining themselves adults. At first, when men notice them and women seem jealous, they enjoy the attention, but when a drunk demands a kiss from Esperanza in exchange for a dollar, she and her friends flee and get rid of the shoes. Every other specifically feminine artifact and feature becomes a potential trap: hips, cooking, dresses, physical beauty, and most of all houses. Repeatedly, wives and daughters are locked in houses, where they serve men.

Finally, Esperanza dreams of a house of her own, one that is not her husband’s or her father’s but hers. At the end of the novella, Esperanza begins the story again, revealing that her book has become her house on Mango Street, the home in her heart that her best female mentors have told her to find. By writing, she gets hold of it, and in this way she can have a home and still resist becoming a man’s property.

The House on Mango Street Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Esperanza Cordero and her family had not always lived on Mango Street. The family of six lived in a series of run-down apartments before finally buying a small house with crumbling brick. Esperanza is disappointed. It is not a real house, not the house she imagined they would someday live in. They say this house is only temporary, but Esperanza knows better.

Esperanza loves her family but resents having to look after her little sister, Nenny. She hopes someday to have a best friend to play with instead. She also wants a new name, because her Spanish name means “sadness” to her. She makes up Zeze the X. She meets Cathy, who gossips about the neighbors and says that her father wants to move because people like the Corderos keep moving in. Esperanza and Nenny meet Lucy and Rachel, newly arrived from Texas. They pool their savings to buy a bike for ten dollars and take turns riding it. They visit the black man’s junk store and hear his music box play. Esperanza knows that some people are afraid of her neighborhood and call them “Those Who Don’t.” She explains, “They think we’re dangerous.” She herself feels safe and secure in her neighborhood of brown-skinned people.

Esperanza’s friend Alicia, the college student, gets up one morning and sees a mouse behind the sink. Her father says there is no mouse. Alicia is afraid of two things in life—her father and mice. She studies at night and, ever since her mother died, gets up with the “tortilla star” every morning to make the lunches for her brothers and sisters.

Esperanza passes the days out in the street playing jump rope with Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel and singing rhymes about their neighbors. One day, the woman in the family of little feet gives them some old high heels, and they wear them through the neighborhood. The grocery man says they are too young to be wearing such shoes, but they do not take them off until a whiskey bum offers Rachel a dollar for a kiss. Then they all run away and hide the shoes under a bushel basket on Lucy’s back porch.

Esperanza often thinks she does not fit in. She would like to eat in the school’s canteen with the kids who bring lunch instead of walking home for lunch, but the Mother Superior yells at her. She is also embarrassed about her rice sandwich. At her little cousin’s baptism, she hates wearing scuffed brown shoes with her pretty new dress, but her Uncle Nacho makes her feel great by saying she is the prettiest girl there and dancing with her until everyone claps.

Esperanza is growing up. The girls gossip about becoming physically mature. Esperanza gets her first job. It does not go well because an Asian man tricks her by pretending to be friendly in the lunchroom, then grabbing and kissing her hard. Her abuelito (grandfather) dies, and she feels sorrow for her grieving father. Her Aunt Lupe is dying from an incurable bone disease. The girls make fun of Lupe one day, but Esperanza feels so bad she begins to bring her aunt books and poems, which she reads to her. Aunt Lupe is the first person to hear Esperanza recite one of her own poems. She is also the first to encourage Esperanza to be a writer. Soon after, she dies.

Esperanza goes to see Elenita, the witch woman, to have her future read in the cards. She is disappointed because Elenita tells her she will have “a home in the heart” when what she wants is a real house of her own. She hears stories about her neighbors and friends. Just arrived from Mexico, Geraldo is killed in a hit-and-run accident. No one is notified. Edna’s grown daughter Ruthie keeps saying her husband will come to take her home, but he never does. Earl, the jukebox repairman who lives in Edna’s basement, brings his wife home occasionally, but no one can agree about what she looks like. Sire, the boy Esperanza falls in love with, is older; she spies on him and Lois walking together and dreams of feeling the weight of a boy’s arm around her.

Sally is the girl the schoolboys call beautiful. Her father beats her for going with boys, but Esperanza does not believe the stories the boys tell about Sally. Another girl, Minerva, already has two children, although she is not much older than Esperanza. She reads her sad poems to Esperanza.

Esperanza continues to daydream about the house she will own one day, in which she will let bums live in the attic. She believes she is the ugly daughter in whom no man will be interested. Her mother, on the other hand, is beautiful, smart, and could have been somebody.

Esperanza and the girls have a secret place they called The Monkey Garden, where they go to escape their mothers. One day Esperanza finds Sally there with Tito and his friends, holding Sally’s keys in exchange for a kiss. Esperanza tells on them, but neither Sally nor Tito’s mother cares, so Esperanza feels stupid that she tried to rescue her friend. One night, Sally lies to Esperanza and leaves her alone at the circus with a boy who then rapes her. Sally later gets married to a door-to-door salesman.

The three sisters convince Esperanza that if she ever leaves Mango Street, as she threatens to, she must promise to come back. Alicia tells her “you are Mango Street.” Esperanza compares her imagined house to a space “quiet as snow” and clean as paper. She calls Mango the house to which she both belongs and does not belong. She promises herself that one day she will pack her books and papers and go away, but that she will come back for the ones she left behind.

The House on Mango Street Summary

The House on Mango Street is the coming of age story of Esperanza Cordero, a preadolescent Mexican American girl (Chicana) living in...

(The entire section is 826 words.)

The House on Mango Street Summary and Analysis

Part I: The House on Mango Street, Hairs, and Boys & Girls

New Characters:
Esperanza Cordero: the narrator of the novel

Nenny (Magdalena): Esperanza’s younger sister

Mama: Esperanza’s mother

Papa: Esperanza’s father

Carlos: Esperanza’s younger brother

Kiki: Esperanza’s youngest brother

Nun: a nun from Esperanza’s school

The House on Mango Street
Esperanza and her family have just moved to a house on Mango Street. They have lived on a number of different streets in the past, and Esperanza names as many of them as she can remember. What she remembers most, however, is moving around a lot.

This is the first house the Corderos own....

(The entire section is 1171 words.)

Part II: My Name, Cathy Queen of Cats, and Our Good Day

New Characters:
Cathy: one of Esperanza’s neighbors

Joe: man who lives next door to Cathy

Benny and Blanca: owners of the corner store

Edna: owner of the building next to Esperanza’s house

Alicia: Esperanza’s neighbor who is attending college

Rachel and Lucy: sisters who live across the street from Cathy

Tito: a neighborhood boy

My Name
Esperanza describes the meaning and origin of her name. The English translation is “hope,” but in Spanish, she says, it means something different, something sad. She was named after her great-grandmother, who, like Esperanza, was born in the Chinese Year of the Horse. That is...

(The entire section is 1429 words.)

Part III: Laughter, Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold, Meme Ortiz, and Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin

New Characters:
Gil: owner of the junk store near Esperanza’s house

Meme Ortiz: Juan “Meme” Ortiz, one of Esperanza’s neighbors

Louie: one of Esperanza’s neighbors

Marin: Louie’s cousin from Puerto Rico

Louie’s other cousin: Louie’s unnamed cousin, a young man

Laughter
Esperanza discusses her likeness to Nenny. They don’t look too much alike, but they are similar in other ways, like their laughter. Esperanza describes how one day, when they were with Lucy and Rachel, they passed a house that reminded Esperanza of Mexico. Esperanza said that the house looked “like Mexico,” and though Lucy and Rachel looked at her as if she...

(The entire section is 1343 words.)

Part IV: Marin, Those Who Don’t, and There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do

New Characters:
Davey the Baby, his sister and brother: residents of Esperanza’s neighborhood

Fat Boy: a resident of Esperanza’s neighborhood

Eddie, Refugia, Efren, Angel, and the other Vargas kids: residents of Esperanza’s neighborhood and children of Rosa Vargas

Rosa Vargas: a resident of Esperanza’s neighborhood and a single mother

Marin
Esperanza describes Marin, who is secretly engaged to a boy in Puerto Rico. Marin sells Avon products and is trying to save up money for her marriage. She will probably be sent back to Puerto Rico next year by Louie’s parents, but Esperanza hopes not because Marin is her source of gossip and feminine advice....

(The entire section is 1147 words.)

Part V: Alicia Who Sees Mice, Darius & the Clouds, and And Some More

New Characters:
Alicia’s father: father of Alicia, Esperanza’s neighbor

Darius: a neighbor of Esperanza

Alicia Who Sees Mice
Alicia’s father tells her that the mice she sees while she is up studying at night don’t really exist—they’re just in her imagination. Besides, he says, she should be sleeping instead of studying so she can wake up early and cook for the family. Alicia’s mother died, and she has had to take her mother’s place at home while she attends a university across town. She is always tired because she has to travel far to the university and stays up late to study.

Darius & the Clouds
Esperanza laments the fact that there is...

(The entire section is 1193 words.)

Part VI: The Family of Little Feet and A Rice Sandwich

New Characters:
The Family of Little Feet: Grandpa, Grandma, Baby, and Mother: a family in Esperanza’s neighborhood

Bum man: a drunkard outside the local tavern

Gloria: Nenny’s friend

Nun: the nun in charge of the canteen at Esperanza’s school

Sister Superior: the nun in charge at Esperanza’s school

The Family of Little Feet
Esperanza describes the small feet of a family in her neighborhood. The mother of that family gives Esperanza, Rachel, and Lucy three pairs of old high-heeled shoes.

Because the mother has small feet, the shoes fit the girls perfectly. They put on the shoes and take off their socks to reveal their legs....

(The entire section is 1068 words.)

Part VII: Chanclas, Hips, and The First Job

New Characters:
Uncle Nacho: Esperanza’s uncle

Esperanza’s cousin by communion: a boy Esperanza knows through church

Aunt Lala: Esperanza’s aunt

Oriental man: a man who works with Esperanza at Peter Pan Photo Finishers

Chanclas
Esperanza’s mother comes home from buying new clothes for the family to wear to Esperanza’s cousin’s baptism party. Esperanza gets a beautiful new dress and slip, but her mother forgot to buy her new shoes. Uncle Nacho takes them to the church, where everyone seems to be having a good time except Esperanza. She feels stupid in her new dress and old shoes.

Esperanza’s cousin by communion asks her to dance, but...

(The entire section is 1222 words.)

Part VIII: Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark, Born Bad, and Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water

New Characters:
Aunt Guadalupe (Aunt Lupe): Esperanza’s invalid aunt

Frank and Totchy: Aunt Lupe’s children

Elenita: a fortune teller in Esperanza’s neighborhood

Ernie: Elenita’s son

Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark
Esperanza’s father wakes her up early one morning to tell her that her grandfather has died. She is the first child he tells because she is the oldest, and she will have to tell the others. Esperanza wonders what she would do if she lost her father, who is always up and off to work before they even wake up. She has never seen him cry before, and she takes him into her arms and holds him.

Born Bad
Esperanza...

(The entire section is 1340 words.)

Part IX: Geraldo No Last Name, Edna’s Ruthie, The Earl of Tennessee, and Sire

New Characters:
Geraldo: a young man Marin meets at a dance

Ruthie: Edna’s daughter

Earl: the man who lives in Edna’s basement

Earl’s “wife”: the different women Earl brings home

Sire: a neighborhood boy

Lois: Sire’s girlfriend

Geraldo No Last Name
Marin meets Geraldo, a young Hispanic man, at a dance. He dies later that evening in a hit-and-run accident. No one seems to know anything about him, and no one seems to understand why Marin is so upset if she only met him that evening. Geraldo was a wetback, a temporary and probably illegal immigrant worker who didn’t speak any English and didn’t have any identification. No...

(The entire section is 1186 words.)

Part X: Four Skinny Trees and No Speak English

New Characters:
Mamacita and her husband: neighbors who live across the street from Esperanza

Four Skinny Trees
Esperanza describes the four skinny trees outside her window. The trees, she says, are the only ones who understand her, and she is the only one who understands them. Like her, they have been put on Mango Street where they don’t belong. The trees are skinny but strong, with deep roots, and they talk to Esperanza while she sleeps. When she feels weak, she gains strength by looking at the trees.

No Speak English
Mamacita, the obese wife of the man across the street, finally comes from somewhere in Latin America to be with her husband. He had worked very hard...

(The entire section is 966 words.)

Part XI: Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays and Sally

New Characters:
Rafaela: a neighbor of Esperanza

Rafaela’s husband: locks up Rafaela in the apartment

Sally: a friend and classmate of Esperanza

Sally’s father: who beats Sally

Cheryl: Sally’s ex-best friend

Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays
Rafaela’s husband locks her in their apartment on Tuesday nights when he goes to play dominoes. He is afraid she’ll run off because she is very young and beautiful. She leans out of the window and watches Esperanza and her friends play, then throws them money and asks them to buy her juice at the store. She pulls the juice up to her window with a clothesline. Rafaela would...

(The entire section is 729 words.)

Part XII: Minerva Writes Poems and Bums in the Attic

New Characters:
Minerva: a neighbor and friend of Esperanza

Minerva’s husband: frequently beats his wife

Minerva Writes Poems
Minerva, who is just a few years older than Esperanza, already has two children. She also has a husband who beats her. Minerva often kicks her husband out, but he apologizes and she lets him come back, only to have him beat her again. Minerva cries often, and at night, when she is alone, she writes poems on scraps of paper. She and Esperanza share their poems with each other.

Bums in the Attic
Esperanza wants a house like the ones her father takes the family to see on Sundays—a house on a hill with a garden. Esperanza refuses to...

(The entire section is 686 words.)

Part XIII: Beautiful & Cruel, A Smart Cookie, and What Sally Said

New Characters:
Izaura and Yolanda: friends of Esperanza’s mother

Beautiful & Cruel
Esperanza says she is the ugly girl in the family, so no husband will come for her. Nenny, who is pretty, says she won’t wait around forever for a husband. She wants to be able to choose who or what takes her away from home. Esperanza says that Nenny can talk about choices because she is pretty. Esperanza decides not to “grow up tame” and grow old waiting for a husband. She wants to be powerful like the beautiful women in the movies, so she decides to get her power from a different source: she begins to behave like a man.

A Smart Cookie
Esperanza’s mother says that she...

(The entire section is 971 words.)

Part XIV: The Monkey Garden, Red Clowns, and Linoleum Roses

New Characters:
Tito’s mother: who Esperanza runs to for help

Man at carnival: a man who molests Esperanza

Sally’s husband: a salesman

The Monkey Garden
Esperanza describes the monkey garden, a neighborhood garden where the previous owners kept a pet monkey. The garden has since grown wild and is now a place where they can play and disappear for a while. Esperanza describes the last time she went there, the time she wanted to die.

Esperanza wanted to play in the garden with the other children, but someone said she was too big to play. She urged Sally to join her, but Sally wanted to stay with Tito and his friends. Sally flirted with the boys and they...

(The entire section is 1236 words.)

Part XV: The Three Sisters and Alicia & I Talking on Edna’s Steps

New Characters:
The Three Sisters: aunts of Rachel and Lucy

The Three Sisters
Lucy and Rachel’s baby sister dies. Many visitors come to their house for the viewing, and Esperanza meets Lucy and Rachel’s aunts there. They call Esperanza over and read her palm. They say that she is special and tell her to make a wish. She does, and they tell her it will come true. Then one of the sisters takes Esperanza aside and tells her that when she leaves Mango Street, she must remember to return, “to come back for the others.” She tells Esperanza not to forget who she is, because she will always be Esperanza and will always be part of Mango Street.

Alicia & I Talking on Edna’s...

(The entire section is 692 words.)

Part XVI: A House of My Own and Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes

A House of My Own
Esperanza describes the house she wants to have some day: a house completely her own, that belongs entirely to her, with only her things—her books, her stories, her shoes—inside.

Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes
Esperanza says that she likes to tell stories and that she makes up stories about her life as she experiences things. She says she is going to tell the story of a girl “who didn’t want to belong.” She describes the houses she’s lived in and says she remembers the house on Mango Street the most. When she writes this story down, it makes her feel better; it sets her free from Mango Street.

Esperanza says that one day she will leave Mango Street and...

(The entire section is 728 words.)