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In many ways this excellent novel presents us with a world that is cast adrift from many of the normal sources of support, advice and assistance that are available to the majority of the population in the United States. The barrio community in which Esperanza grows is shown to be completely ridden by crime, abuse and neglect. Clearly the stereotyping and attitudes of others who should, in theory, help and assist, does not help matters much. Note how in the very first vignette of this novel the innocent question of the nun that inquires if Esperanza lives in the house that she points to makes Esperanza "feel like nothing." Likewise parents on the whole are shown as being ineffectual to prevent their children becoming involved in crime, sex and abuse. We are presented with a world where, on the whole, women marry young and have children young and who, in the words of Esperanza, "lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain." It is a sad testament to the grim realities of life in such barrios that there is little attempt to prevent such horrendous situations repeating themselves.
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