The House on Mango Street Questions and Answers
by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street book cover
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I don't understand what a speaker is in literature. I know its the voice that comes to mind when reading, but i don't understand how to find it. I have to find three examples of speaker. I'm sure its easy, but can someone please explain to me what a speaker is and how to find it? If you have any examples from The House on Mango Street that would be great...

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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To determine the "speaker" or "voice" of the narrator, you have to determine from what point of view the narrator is speaking. (Think of it in everyday spoken language.) If the narrator is describing events as he or she observes them (using he, she, it, they) it is a third-person narrative. In third person narration, the narrator is not a character in the story. The third-person narrator might use "I" or "we" occasionally but this is only to comment on what's going on in the story. This is the most common point of view in literature. You may have heard the term "omniscient narrator." This is a third-person narrator who knows everything that's going on. The benefit of the omniscient narrator is that, being "all knowing," the narrator can foreshadow what's going to happen and this narrator can elaborate on what each character is thinking. It's as if the third-person omniscient narrator is like God looking down on events and people, from a remote perspective where he can see everything. 

First-person narration is told from the narrator's point of view. The narrator uses "I' and recalls or presently describes his/her own part in the events of the story, either as an active participant or a witness. This is the type of narration or "voice" that's used in The House on Mango Street. But take note that the first-person narrator can slip into third-person narration; it's almost inevitable because if I were to describe events in my life, I would have to occasionally speak in the third-person (i.e., "She didn't love me. I was hurt.") The same is true from this quote from Cisneros' book:

If you give me five dollars I will be your friend forever. That's what the little one tells me. Five dollars is cheap since I don't have any friends except Cathy who is only my friend till Tuesday. (14)

This sounds confusing, but you just have to look for how much the story is narrated from the first-person. Of course, look for "I" as the narrator describes her part in the story and how she relates to others. Remember that when you see "I," it is first-person if that narrator is in the story; it is third-person if the narrator is not in the story. 

Second-person narration is the most rare. The narrator doesn't have to be in or outside the story. Second-person is when the narrator refers to one of the characters as "you" which sometimes makes the reader feel like he is being spoken to directly. The Catcher in the Ryeemploys all three, first, second and third-person narration. Holden Caulfield tells his story to someone ("you") but from his perspective ("I"), occasionally shifting to third-person to describe events related to him. 

There are other, more specialized ways of describing voice, so if I haven't given the answer you're looking for, please just resubmit your question. First, Second and Third person voices are the foundational voices upon which those specialized descriptions are based, so I started with those. 


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