What are the internal and external conflicts for Esperanza in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is clear that one of the biggest internal and external conflicts that Esperanza faces is her own desire to break free from her barrio and to leave it, seeking her own life and forming her own identity. The earlier vignettes in particular talk a lot about the women in her barrio and how they act as role models in various ways. yet as Esperanza develops, and she understands more about the kind of lives that her friends live, being married to husbands who can be abusive and having children at an early age, and decides that she doesn't want to be trapped in this kind of life. Consider the vignette entitled "Minerva Writes Poems," and the way that this presents the possible future for Esperanza if she stays in her barrio and settles:

Minerva is only a little bit older than me but already she has two kids and a husband who left... Minerva cried because her luck is unlucky. Every night and every day. And prays.

This leads to Esperanza's resolution in "Beautiful and Cruel," when she defiantly states:

I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain.

Esperanza sees all of her female friends dominated in a patriarchal society that squashes their identity in a profoundly negative way. Her resolution defines her as it defiantly expresses her desire to form her own identity and to not let those around her form her identity for her.

Another conflict she faces is the instability and lack of sense of belonging that she experiences in the barrio. Note how in "A House of My Own," she dreams of "Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem." Her final decision to leave Mango Street is therefore a triumph for Esperanza over her conflicts, yet at the same time she is determined not to forget her roots. She herself admits that she is "too strong to stay in Mango street," yet at the same time she says that:

They will know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out.

Therefore, when we think of internal and external conflicts in this excellent novel, it is clear that Esperanza faces massive peer pressure to do what the other women do in her society and to marry young and settle down and have children.

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