The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What is the significance of having many names in The House on Mango Street? There are so many chapters in which Esperanza talks about names, especially Spanish and English names.

Expert Answers info

Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,280 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Names are a sign of one's identity, and Esperanza wishes to change her identity (to some degree) and move away from the house on Mango Street. In the chapter entitled "My Name," she speaks about how she is named Esperanza after her great-grandmother, who spent her life sitting by the window and hoping for something better after she was forced to get married. Esperanza does not want to have the same fate as her great-grandmother, and, at the end of this chapter, she decides to give herself a new name. She goes through many choices and decides on "Zeze the X." She also says that she will baptize herself with this new name. A baptism stands for a new beginning, and Esperanza hopes that by giving herself a new name, she will give herself a new identity and a new life.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,509 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza describes the given names and nicknames that she and others have.  In describing her own name, Esperanza tells the audience that her name in Spanish means "hope."  This is significant because Esperanza's name becomes a symbol for her characterization--even though she will experience rough times living on Mango Street (i.e. sexual harrassment, poverty, violence), she will still see hope in her life and make plans to gain a brighter reality. 

This is true of other characters as well.  For example, Geraldo No-Last-Name is a young man whom Marin meets at a dance.  He is killed that night, but no one know who his family is or where he has come from.  Geraldo's not having a last name represents his anonymity in this country--he is an immigrant and has come to the U.S. to work to send money home to his family.  But he is part of the mass of immigrants who have a similar experience, and no one cares about them as individuals.  His not having a last name is symbolic of this reality.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial