Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 482

“Geraldo No Last Name” is one of forty-four sketches in Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street (1984). The voice of a narrator identified as Esperanza in another vignette helps to unify her entire book. As Esperanza tells the stories, such as that of Geraldo, she assesses the situations and expresses her opinions—which seem to reflect the point of view of a preadolescent girl or one in her early adolescence.

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Although each of Cisneros’s vignettes can stand alone as a story, it is helpful to read all of The House on Mango Street for a more thorough understanding of the themes that she develops. A vignette entitled “Marin,” for example, presents the background of the young woman who enjoys going dancing. Marin is a beautiful Puerto Rican girl, whose family has sent her to the United States in the care of an aunt.

The main theme of “Geraldo No Last Name” centers on the human tragedy of the illegal worker, who must remain as anonymous as possible in order to survive. Marin’s and Geraldo’s lives touch only by chance because they happen to be in the same dance hall and they dance together. It is evident that Geraldo wants to reveal little about himself beyond his first name. He tells her that he works in a restaurant, but after his death Marin cannot even remember the name of his restaurant—a fact suggesting that Geraldo told her little about his place of employment.

In addition to Geraldo’s death and his total anonymity, other tragedies are implied in the story. The fact that living in fear prevents people from communicating with each other and from forming lasting friendships is an unfortunate situation. All barriers between people are tragedies because they breed misunderstandings and unhappiness that touch many lives.

The narrator thinks that Geraldo’s lack of identity and the entire situation are a shame. Moreover, she suggests that people will never know how Geraldo managed to live in his “two-room flats” or in the rooms he rented. He probably acted very discreetly with other people, in the same way that he acted with Marin. Consequently, how could people know anything about him or find out whom to notify about his tragic death? Thus, Geraldo’s life does not matter, for it is as if he had never existed. Furthermore, Geraldo’s tragedy will extend to his homeland, because his people will continue to wonder about his whereabouts for the rest of their lives.

“Geraldo No Last Name” emerges as an indictment of the uncomfortable situations of illegal workers. In addition, it points out how humanly degrading these situations are. Undocumented workers, states the narrator, “always look ashamed,” which means that they make their feelings of guilt evident in their behavior, and hence they feel that their worth as human beings is not the same as other people’s.

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