What is the conflict and solution in The House on Mango Street?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, the main conflict is an internal one for main character Esperanza. The house on Mango Street was where Esperanza lived during her formative years, from the age of six to young adulthood. Her parents had promised a house of their own, but the house does not meet Esperanza's expectations. 

They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn't have to move each year. And our house would have running water and pipes that worked. And inside it would have real stairs, not hallway stairs, but stairs inside like the houses on T.V. And we'd have a basement and at least three washrooms so when we took a bath we wouldn't have to tell everybody. Our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. This is the house Papa talked about when he held up a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in stories before we went to bed.

The house does not live up to Esperanza's expectations, and, even more detrimental to her mind-set, the people of the neighborhood do not live up to her expectations. The boys are usually in some kind of trouble, like Louie's cousin who stole a car and gave them rides until he was caught by police. Darius is another example—he does not like school and chases girls with firecrackers. Most of the girls in the neighborhood, once they are old enough, only seem interested in boys. Their expectations for the boys are very low—they seem satisfied if boys pay attention to them. They do not look for many other qualities. Marin, Sally, and Ruthie seem to be interested in belonging to a man, and that is where they find their identity. 

Esperanza does not fit into these cultural norms. She has a strong sense of justice, high expectations for herself and others, and is fiercely independent. She was taken advantage of in the chapter (or vignette) entitled "Red Clowns," which further cements her desire to leave the neighborhood behind. 

The conflict is resolved through Esperanza's writing, which allows her to leave Mango Street and create the life she had always envisioned for herself, away from the neighborhood. Toward the end of the book, she meets the three sisters who have "the power." They prophesy that Esperanza will go far in life. They admonish her to never forget her beginnings and never to forget Mango Street. They tell her Mango Street is part of who she is and that she can never erase that. The book ends with Esperanza reflecting on her childhood:

We didn't always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, but what I remember most is Mango Street, sad red house, the house I belong but do not belong to. I put it down on paper and the ghost does not ache so much. I put it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict in the House on Mango Street is Esperanza's struggles to find her true identity, and her independence from the otherwise dragging and pulling circumstances that keep her stranded among a group of women much different than herself. These women include her aunts, her sister, her best friend Sally, and other Chicanas who approach love, sex, and relationships in a co-dependent way whereas Esperanza (whose English translation of her name is "Hope") tries to counteract those behaviors by reasserting herself as an independent woman who is in control of her own destiny, and who has wants and needs that she can meet for herself instead of expecting a man to fulfill them.

The resolution of this conflict  was that after she made the hard decision of leaving Mango Street (despite of it being the only reality she knew) she instead listened to her aunts and returned. She did not return because she needed to be in Mango St., butt because she did not want Mango St. to define her as a person, nor to become a Nemesis in her life. If anything, she will want to explore her feelings about the place through writing and helping other women (by becoming a role model of independence) and by making sure she is in charge of her circumstances, rather than the circumstance of living in Mango St. be the maker of her persona.

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The House on Mango Street

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