The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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What is the theme of  "Papa who Wakes up Tired in the Dark” in The House on Mango Street?

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In the vignette "Papa Wakes up Tired in the Dark," Esperanza's father comes into her room to tell her that her grandfather has passed away. She is completely taken off guard when she sees her father cry and does not know what to do. Esperanza's father has to go to Mexico for the funeral and, as the oldest child, she will have to tell the news to her siblings. She thinks about her father passing away and holds him as he sits on her bed.

One theme that can be seen in this vignette is the importance and strength of family. Esperanza not only has to deal with her grandfather passing away, but she also has to deal with the thought of her own father passing away. She is at a loss for words when she sees that her father "crumples like a coat and cries" (chapter 22). Even though she is getting older, she values her family, and this chapter clearly shows that just thinking about losing someone she loves is hard for her.

This vignette also ties in with the novel's general theme of gender, because this is one of the few times that Esperanza sees a male character (in this case, her father) become vulnerable. Throughout the novel, Esperanza sees women being powerless in front of men; this time, she is the one holding on to her father while he cries in her arms.

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "Papa Wakes up Tired in the Dark," a chapter in Sandra Cisneros's House on Mango Street, Papa is strangely sitting on Esperanza's bed one morning. He tells her that "Your abuelito [grandfather] is dead." The father cries, which is very rare for him. Normally, the father has already left by that point of the morning, as he is so hardworking and has "thick hands and thick shoes," meaning that his hands and feet are worn and bloated from so much hard work. In the end of the chapter, Esperanza hugs her father and thinks about how upset she would be if he died. 

The themes of this chapter are Esperanza's connection to her father and her understanding of the loss he is experiencing after his father's death. The chapter also emphasizes her role in supporting the family when her father is grieving and when he has to go to Mexico for the funeral, and the division of the family across the U.S.-Mexican border. 

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