What are some example of women denied equality and independence in The House on Mango Street? A. Women denied physical freedom B. Women denied sexual equality C. Women denied educational...

What are some example of women denied equality and independence in The House on Mango Street?

A. Women denied physical freedom

B. Women denied sexual equality

C. Women denied educational equality

D. Women denied opportunity to determine identity and place

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The House on Mango Street offers many different examples of women being denied equality and independence.  One example of women being denied physical freedom is in Sally's narrative:

Sally says she likes being married because now she gets to buy her own things when her husband gives her money. She is happy, except sometimes her husband gets angry and once he broke the door where his foot went through, though most days he is okay. Except he won't let her talk on the telephone. And he doesn't let her look out the window.

Sally's denial of physical freedom is rooted in how she sought marriage to escape from the patriarchal ways of her father.  Esperanza argues that she has swapped out one form of oppression for another.  Sally is denied physical freedom in how she is unable to look out the window, something that Esperanza associated with the desire for freedom that her great- grandmother sought, but was also denied.  This was conveyed through the image of the window: "She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow […] Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window."  In both of these situations, the denial of physical freedom is a significant part of the social construction of gender.

When Esperanza learns from Marin the basics about sexual identity, one sees how women are denied sexual equality in The House on Mango Street.  Marin tells Esperanza "what matters" when it comes to the relationship between men and women:  "What matters, Marin says, is for the boys to see us and for us to see them."  This helps to communicate how women in the narrative are denied a sense of sexual equality.  Marin's words communicate how girls are not meant to be on the same level as boys.  They are meant to be objectified by boys, who have more options and greater opportunities.  Another example of women being denied sexual equality can be seen in how Rafaela suffers from not being able to act upon her physical beauty, and thus denied a sense of sexual equality: "And then Rafaela, who is still young but getting old from leaning out the window so much, gets locked indoors because her husband is afraid Rafaela will run away since she is too beautiful to look at."  Rafaela's beauty, her sexuality, cannot be acted upon as a means of escape, reflective of women being denied sexual equality.

Cisneros's work shows the marginalization of women extending into the realm educational equality and the lack of being able to determine identity and place. From the earliest of ages and through the mild discourse between her friends, Esperanza understands that there is not much value placed on education for women in the world of Mango Street:  "[Hips are] good for holding a baby when you're cooking, Rachel says, turning the jump rope a little quicker. She has no imagination."  Rachel's lack of imagination and simply parroting the cultural expectations of women reflect a lack of educational opportunity.  In the world that envelops Esperanza, girls are not intended to receive educational equality.  Rather, they are intended to mirror the expectation of having children and embracing the domestic world without much in way of question. This feeds into the idea that women in the world of Mango Street are denied the opportunity to determine identity and place, something that Rafaela embodies in her inability to find freedom in the time and space of her identity:

Rafaela […] wishes there were sweeter drinks, not bitter like an empty room, but sweet sweet like the island, like the dance hall down the street where women much older than her throw green eyes easily like dice and open homes with keys. And always there is someone offering sweeter drinks, someone promising to keep them on a silver string. 

For Rafaela, the desire for freedom is embodied in "open homes with keys."  To experience that inability to determine identity and place, to live a life where someone is always "promising to keep" the keys to liberation on a "silver string," becomes a haunting example of women being denied the opportunity to determine identity and place.

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