What is the theme of The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This excellent novel is above all a coming of age story that charts one girl's discovery and acceptance of her position as a poor Latino in America. The fragments that we are presented with in this story show Esperanza's struggles with the society in which she grows up and the way that she both accepts those limitations and at the same time struggles to transcend them. In particular, this is related to Esperanza's position as a woman and what she sees happening to her various female friends as they marry early and live lives full of children, abuse and lack of opportunity. In particular, her observations and her own painful experience of sexual awakening in "Red Clowns" causes her to declare stridently in "Beautiful and Cruel":

I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.

Esperanza therefore chooses to forge a path for herself that is uniquely different from the life of the other women in her community and she deliberately rejects the role of subservient femininity. In particular, Esperanza's search for a house acts as an extended metaphor that points towards her search for a home that reflects her identity. I have included a few links below to help you think through this question in a bit more detail.

Read the study guide:
The House on Mango Street

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