Esperanza says she is the ugly girl in the family, so no husband will come for her. She wants to be powerful like the beautiful women in the movies, so she decides to get her power from a different source: she begins to behave like a man.
Esperanza decides to rebel against the patriarchal society that expects her to suppress her individuality and “grow up tame.” She decides she won’t be “like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.” This is a powerful
image—waiting for marriage is like waiting for the guillotine, and marriage is a form of slavery. Given the marriages Esperanza sees around her, however, it should not be a surprise that this is how she views marriage.
To fight against the powerful force of machismo, Esperanza decides to wage a “quiet war.” She will not fill the traditional female role. Instead, she will behave like a man, leaving her dishes at the table instead of clearing them away. She is beginning to act like her independent, wild great-grandmother, and that should give us hope. Esperanza lives in a different world where a woman cannot simply be thrown over the shoulder like a sack and forced to marry. She is much more likely to win her war.
Why is this chapter titled “Beautiful and Cruel” in the house on mango street