The House on Mango Street Questions and Answers
by Sandra Cisneros

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What is making Rafaela grow old in The House on Mango Street? Who is Rapunzel, and why does Rafaela dream of having hair like hers?

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Rafaela grows old before her time because she is married to a man who locks her in the house when he is out playing dominoes. He is afraid that she will leave him, as she is so beautiful, and he keeps her locked inside as a result of his fear. She leans out the window to try to connect with the world outside her door, and she wants to be like Rapunzel, the fairytale princess who lets down her long hair so that her lover can climb up the tower to visit her. Rafaela longs to be like Rapunzel so that she can still connect with the world and with someone who will love her. Without Rapunzel's long hair, she is stuck in her house and pays neighborhood children to buy her juice, which symbolizes the sweet life she wants access to.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the chapter titled "Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut and Papaya Juice on Tuesdays," Esperanza narrates the story of Rafaela, a young woman who is married to a controlling man.  Esperanza says that Rafaela is growing old because her husband forbids her to leave her home, and thus she feels like all her youth is being taken away from her.  She watches other people from her window and wishes that she, like them, could go dancing and have friends.  Instead, she sits at her window watching all her dreams slip away.

Esperanza compares Rafaela to Rapunzel, a fairy tale character who is trapped in a high tower and cannot escape.  One day she lets her incredibly long hair fall out the window so that a prince can climb up her hair to rescue her.  Esperanza makes this comparison to suggest that Rafaela also wants someone to rescue her from the dungeon of her home and her controlling husband.

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