In The House on Mango Street, how does Esperanza change over the course of the story?
Although the book only covers a year, Esperanza starts out as a young girl and ends the book as a young woman. A number of things contribute to her coming of age in so short a time. One thing that happens is puberty. Over the course of the novel, Esperanza's body begins to change, and with that the way she relates to others begins to change as well. This culminates with her betrayal by her friend Sally and her assault at the carnival in the chapter "Red Clowns." But the real change Esperanza goes through is not physical or sexual, but one of understanding. She becomes more aware of her surroundings, the people around her, herself, and her relationship to the neighborhood. She learns that all the people around her are trapped on Mango Street in one way or another. She also learns that she is not like them. I think this awareness is neatly expressed in Esperanza's comment on her great-grandmother: "She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window."
The House on Mango Street is a bildunsgroman, or coming of age story, so the reader can observe Esperanza mature throughout the course of the book. She begins as a little girl, concerned with petty things like playground arguments. Later vignettes show Esperanza becoming aware and interested in womanhood. This is first evidenced in "Hips" when she notices this defining mark of a woman and ponders why they exist. She later comes of age in "Sire" when she begins to show interest in the opposite sex. Esperanza also faces many experiences that strip her of her innocence. No vignette is more powerful in showing this than "Red Clowns" where Esperanza is raped by a man at a carnival.
Esperanza also starts off the book as a selfish girl only concerned with her own desires. Her focus is on the type of house she wants to live in and how she wants to leave the ghetto. However, by the end she realizes her dream has to go beyond her own self- interestes. This mature way of thinking is fully established in "The Three Sisters" when one of the sisters tells her that she must come back to Mango Street to help others like her succeed in escaping.