In The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, why is the house on Mango Street not the family's dream home?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sandra Cisneros, a Latina writer, grew up in the neighborhoods that she writes about in her work.  Her gift is writing about the experiences of a growing up female in a male-dominated society.  The book The House on Mango Street is narrated by Esperanza Cordero, who tells the story through forty-four vignettes describing the experiences of her family. 

The family lived in several different places before owning the house on Mango Street.  Each time  they had moved a new baby came along. By the time the family moved to Mango Street,  there were now four children.  The places that the family had been in before were small and crowded with nothing working the way it should. 

Esperanza  remembers the description of the house  that was promised by her parents.  The new home would be a real house that would belong to them.  Everything would work.  It would have an upstairs. They would have a television.  There would be three bathrooms so that everyone would be able to take a bath when they wanted to.  It would be the house that everyone dreams: painted white, lots of trees, an enormous yard with beautiful green grass.  No fence needed to enclose it. it was the dream house of her Esperanza and her parents.

Then reality strikes. The father did not win the lottery, and the family had to move out quickly because there was no running water in the last place that they lived.  Of course, the family had little money.  When they bought the house on Mango street, it was the best the parents could find to buy.

Nothing was as they had expected. It was small and painted red.  The bricks on the outside were falling off the outside.  The house was shifting so that the front door no longer fit in its frame.  The other things missing were depressing as well:  no front yard, one bathroom, and one bedroom.  Ironically, they have a small garage, but the family has no car. It was not the way the parents had described their dream home. 

Remember that when they moved to Mango Street,  Esperanza was too young  to understand the parents' financial difficulties. The father had to work two jobs to support the family. 

The girl wanted a home, not just a house; and certainly she did not want this house.  Her father promised her that this house was only temporary, but cynically she thinks to herself:

A real house.  One I could point to.  But this isn't it.  The house on Mango Street isn't it. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.

The reader would like to think that wherever the family is living together with everyone healthy would be the place that the girl calls home.  However, Esperanza remembers the nun from her school who skeptically looked at the apartment where they lived before:

Where do you live? she asked.

There, I said pointing up to the third floor.

You live there?

Esperanza felt shame.  Now, the young girl in her naivete wants a house that she can point to and be proud of it.  The house on Mango Street is not the one.


Read the study guide:
The House on Mango Street

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