How does Esperanza change over time in The House on Mango Street?

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Although one can not overlook Esperanza’s sexual development in the novella, the primary change she experiences is from childhood to adulthood.

The House on Mango Street is a type of Bildungsroman in which a young Latina girl living in a barrio learns various life lessons as she grows older.

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Although one can not overlook Esperanza’s sexual development in the novella, the primary change she experiences is from childhood to adulthood.

The House on Mango Street is a type of Bildungsroman in which a young Latina girl living in a barrio learns various life lessons as she grows older.

Perhaps the vignette that best illustrates Esperanza’s change from childhood to adulthood is “The Monkey Garden,” which describes an overgrown urban jungle that neighborhood kids like to use as a playground. The story is an allegorical take on the story of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden from the Christian Bible. The innocent childhood atmosphere in the garden is spoiled when Tito and the other boys begin playing adult games with Sally, a sexually precocious girl who is manipulated easily and often by the males around her.

This sin in the garden spoils the innocent fun with which Esperanza associates the place, which fills her with sadness and rage. At first, Esperanza reacts the way a child does, tattling to Tito’s mother and threatening the boys with a brick if they don’t give Sally her keys. However, this reaction is fruitless, and Sally even mocks Esperanza for acting so immature.

Esperanza then goes off by herself to think, realizing that the women and girls in the neighborhood often allow the men and boys to control them. This realization highlights how Esperanza is developing a mature view of life, interrogating injustice to reach such conclusions on her own. After wishing she could die right in this spot, Esperanza gets up, and even her own feet and shoes seem totally alien to her. This shows that Esperanza has changed from innocence to experience.

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Her main change is that of a sexual awakening.  She starts the novel as a child, ignorant about sex and seemingly uninterested in boys.  As she moves into her teen years, she begins to learn the power that sex, particularly as a female, has and starts to experiment with this power.  A key moment in which this power is demonstrated and tested is when she wears high heels around the neighborhood.  She senses a power in wearing those shoes, perhaps a power that could take her out of her living situation on Mango St. However, after being sexually assaulted, Esperanza realizes the dark side of sexuality and pulls back from her sexuality a bit to focus on her writing.

Within her writing she develops as an author and begins to analyze the world around her instead of primarily focusing on herself and her immediate surroundings.  She observes her community and starts to see writing as her means of escape to a better life.  While her sense of individual responsibility to her community increases through the novel, as a writer, she finds herself becoming more of an isolated observer than participant.  This is somewhat at odds with an increasing sense that all members of the community must work together to pull everyone out of poverty and into better, more prosperous lives, as opposed to her initial individual determination to escape.  Evidence of her movement towards community involvement is shown in her relationship with Alicia and the three sisters, with whom she begins to see the need for lifelong efforts to improve the situations of the women in the community.   

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