What are some symbols in The House on Mango Street?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since the novel is about a girl's understanding of self and unlocking the keys to her emerging and evolving identity, it's going to be hard to pick out symbols because as she grows up, most anything and everything have symbolic meaning.  Certainly, language is one symbol.  Esperanza understands the symbolic quality of language and voice.  In not understanding English, the symbolic meaning is that one is placed at a distinct disadvantage in America.  At the same time, this cultural disadvantage might be symbolic as it silences voices, making them unable to be heard.  Esperanza understands this early on, which might feed into the powerful meaning of becoming a writer.  Pay attention to how language/ voice are symbolic of something more in the book.  The House itself is both a symbol of poverty and identity.  While it does represent poverty, it also serves a source of strength for Esperanza as it gives birth to her dreams, but also inspires her to understand from where to where she has come as she understands her own sense of self in greater detail.  Her name is also symbolic, meaning "hope."

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The House on Mango Street

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