What is the effect of using a child narrator in The House on Mango Street?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Using a child's (Esperanza's) perspective to narrate The House on Mango Street, the reader is given an intimate perspective of Esperanza's life seen through a child's eyes. As a child tries to make sense of the world, she describes things as she sees them. These descriptions are often empirical but with imaginative associations. For instance, when Esperanza describes the "Four Skinny Trees," she gives an objective description, but in comparing the trees to herself, she makes an analogy that has the tone of a fairy tale. In fact, the dream of having her own house is an American Dream, but in the child's voice, it seems more pure and idealistic, like in a fairy tale. In this section on the "Four Skinny Trees," Esperanza relates to the trees because they look like they don't belong; she feels like she doesn't fit in. This is a common beginning to a Cinderella story: 

They are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them. Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here. 

Let one forget his reason for being, they'd all droop like tulips in a glass, each with their arms around the other. Keep, keep, keep, trees say when I sleep. They teach. 

Cisneros has noted that the tone and style of Esperanza's narration does have a poetic, childish yet sophisticated, quality to it. But she has said that part of this is how Spanish can translate to English. The effect is that the reader gets the child's perspective but also the perspective of a blend of Hispanic and American culture as experience through Cisneros' unique writing style. 

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The House on Mango Street

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