Is this conflict internal or external in The House on Mango Street?

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict in The House on Mango Street is both internal and external. Esperanza Cordero's external conflict comes from living in a ghetto-type environment. She is not happy with this location. The community is run down. There are dangers all around.

The novel opens with a description of the Cordero family's house on Mango Street, the most recent in a long line of houses they have occupied. Esperanza is dissatisfied with the house, which is small and cramped, and doesn't want to stay there. But Mango Street is her home now, and she sets out to try to understand it.

Esperanza's environment causes external conflict. She is not happy with her environment. She longs to live in a better house in a better neighborhood. Of course, that want happen anytime soon. Already, Esperanza's father is working two jobs:

First there is Esperanza's own family, her kind father who works two jobs and is absent most of the time; her mother, who can speak two languages and sing opera but never finished high school; her two brothers Carlos and Kiki; and her little sister Nenny.

As for internal conflict, Esperanza is at an age that fills her with many choices. She struggles with her own identity. She is at a teenage age in which she desires to have nice clothes and such. Likewise, she struggles with things that are possibly in her power to change:

Like all adolescents, Esperanza struggles to forge her own identity. In many respects, Esperanza's own keen observations and musings about the women in her neighborhood are her way of processing what will happen to her in the future and what is within her power to change.

Esperanza is at the age that her conversations deal with ideas about her sexuality. She is surrounded by adolescent myths and superstitions about sexuality. Life for Esperanza contains inward struggles and outward struggles. She has learned through some of the characters that early marriages often end in an abusive situation. She desires to have a better life than some of the ones around her. Fortunately, Esperanza's dreams help her deal with both the internal and external conflicts while growing up in the ghetto:

Throughout the book there is a tension between Esperanza's ties to the barrio and her impressions of another kind of life outside of it. Ultimately, Esperanza's ability to see beyond her immediate surroundings allows her to transcend her circumstances and immaturity.

Esperanza dreams of owning her own house. Still, she plans to return for those who have no way out. She desires to help those who are struggling with conflict in the neighborhood. Because Esperanza is receiving an education, she has hope of leaving her internal and external conflicts behind her:

It is Esperanza's power to see beyond the barriers of her neighborhood, fueled by her education gained through reading and writing, that keep her from being trapped in the same roles as the women who surround her.

Because of the internal and external conflicts all around Esperanza, she has grown and matured. She is wiser for all of her turmoils and conflicts. She is determined to make it. She will leave it all behind one day:

'One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away. Friends and neighbors will say, What happened to that Esperanza? Where did she go with all these books and paper? Why did she march so far away? They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot come out.'


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The House on Mango Street

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