To what extent is The House on Mango Street a bildungsroman (coming of age story)?
Bildungsroman is defined in this question as "the story of a single individual's growth and development within the context of a dfined social order. The growth process, at its roots a quest story, has been described as both 'an apprenticeship to life' and a 'search for meaningful existence within society.'"
Based on the definition provided of a bildungsroman, The House on Mango Street may be regarded as such because Esperanza embarks on a quest during which her character grows. The novel, although several other characters' plights are described in the story, is a detailing of Esperanza's journey through her adolescent and teenage years growing up on Mango Street. The path of her personal development must occur within the confines of her own moral reasoning, the confines of her family and their values, and the nature of the community of which she is a member. Esperanza witnesses the tragedies of others in her neighborhood, and she eventually experiences tragedies of her own at the hands of men who enter her life. Throughout this journey, Esperanza continually questions the reasons for the manner in which people treat others and the reasons why people treat her in particular ways. Esperanza learns her talent for writing and decides to use this as a ticket off Mango Street and away from the degrading elements of her community. By the end of the story, Esperanza has not fallen to these tragedies--she says that she will leave to better herself in order to come back to her community to help others get out of it. Growing up on Mango Street has taught Esperanza valuable life lessons that she will use for her own good and the good of others.