Black, white, and orange illustration of Esperanza standing in front of a building or structure

The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros

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Identify personification in The House on Mango Street.

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Personification is a figure of speech that authors use to give animals, ideas, or things human attributes.  In other words, non-human things are portrayed in a way that makes readers think that object is capable of acting human. 

Early in The House on Mango Street, the narrator is describing the house.  She tells readers the following information. 

It's small and red with tight steps in front and windows so small you'd think they were holding their breath.

In this line, the windows of the house are compared to a human with lungs that is holding his/her breath.  The line creates an image of a person straining to let air in and out his/her body.  The house's windows are so small that air strains to do the same thing for the house. 

On page 88 of my text, there is another good example of personification.  It's at the start of the chapter titled "Beautiful and Cruel."  

My mother says when I get older my dusty hair will settle and my blouse will learn to stay clean, but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.

In this sentence, the blouse is given the ability to learn.  Obviously a blouse can't do that.  It doesn't have consciousness.  

Related to giving non-human things a consciousness, the narrator does this at the start of the chapter titled "Four Skinny Trees."  

They [the trees] are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them.

Finally, on page 82 of my text, the narrator personifies a room.  She creates the image of a room that can and is patiently awaiting an occupant.  

. . . and maybe your feet would stop in front of a house, a nice one with flowers and big windows and steps for you to climb up two by two upstairs to where a room is waiting for you.

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Personification is not as readily used by Cisneros in The House on Mango Street--there are many more examples of simile and metaphor.  However, there are some key examples of personification.  In the vignette titled "Born Bad," Esperanza explores religious guilt and her belief that she will go to hell.  Her mother has told her that the family will have to pay for their sins against their Aunt Lupe.  Her aunt became sick with a terminal illness, and Esperanza uses personification to characterize the disease and the time before her aunt's death:

"Maybe the sky didn't look the day she fell down."

"But I think diseases have no eyes.  They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone."

These examples suggest that Esperanza feels like her aunt's disease had a mind of its own and that there was no reason why it should have been her aunt to get sick.  Esperanza explores the unfair, random nature of fate and how it has affected both her and her family.

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