Both Esperanza and her mother have dreams of a better life; both want something more than the house on Mango Street. The house on Mango Street is "small and red with tight steps in front and windows so small you'd think they were holding their breath...the house has only one washroom...(and) everybody has to share a bedroom". Esperanza is ashamed to admit to the Sister at school that she lives in this house, and Mama insists that this house is only "for the time being". Mama dreams of a house that is "white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence", and Esperanza shares this vision of the house that will hopefully one day be theirs ("The House on Mango Street").
Mama once had hopes of "be(ing) somebody" like Esperanza does. She speaks two languages, and can sing and draw, but she quit school because she was ashamed because she could not afford nice clothes. Because of poverty and cultural restraints, she never left the city where she was born. As expected, she married and had lots of children, and now she spends her days "tak(ing) care (of) all (her) own". Mama is sometimes disappointed in how her life turned out, but, unlike Esperanza, she is accepting of her role. Like her "comadres", she expects little else ("A Smart Cookie").
Esperanza shares the dreams her mother has of becoming something more in her life than what her culture seems to ordain, but unlike her mother, she will accept nothing less. She is a storyteller, and wants to be a writer, and she says "I am too strong for (Mango Street) to keep me here forever". Esperanza acknowledges that she is "an ugly daughter", but while her mother assures her that she will become prettier as she matures, with the implication that then there will be a man who will love her and give her a family, Esperanza determines that she will "not...grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain". Esperanza will not do what is expected of her; she will not fall into the trap of having children early and raising them in poverty and want. Esperanza will continue her education and maintain her independence; she "will say goodbye to Mango...will go away", to a bigger world and a life with endless possibilities ("Beautiful and Cruel", "Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes").