Introduction to The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street is a novel by Sandra Cisneros. Published in 1984, the novel is made up of a series of vignettes that offer insight into the daily life of twelve-year-old Esperanza Cordero, a Mexican American girl living in Chicago. Cisneros, who is also Mexican American, based many of Esperanza’s thoughts and experiences on her own memories of growing up in a primarily low-income, immigrant neighborhood of Chicago. The House on Mango Street was met with critical acclaim for its portrayal of themes surrounding gender, class, race, sexuality, and identity, and it is frequently assigned reading in schools. However, due to its subject matter—including sexual abuse, domestic violence, and racism—it has also been a frequent target of censorship.

The House on Mango Street is Esperanza’s coming-of-age story. Over the course of one year, Esperanza undergoes a number of significant changes, developing both physically and intellectually. Art, especially writing, becomes the outlet through which she expresses herself and her hopes for the future. However, alongside the changes she experiences comes a series of discouraging realizations, and Esperanza grows increasingly motivated to somehow escape her impoverished circumstances. She searches among the women in her community for role models and, in doing so, paints a vivid picture of what it means to be female in a predominantly patriarchal community where opportunities are limited. Critics have praised Cisneros’s balanced and empathetic portrayal of the various women in Esperanza’s life, and The House on Mango Street is often regarded as a landmark work of both feminist and Chicana literature.

A Brief Biography of Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros (born 1954) is an American author from Chicago, Illinois. Cisneros grew up so poor that she says her neighborhood seemed like a war zone. She was also very shy, and her family moved frequently, which meant that she never had lasting friendships. She felt different from her classmates, many of whom didn’t have to struggle to learn a new language and who looked much more like the people Cisneros saw on television than she did. She therefore turned to writing to express her emotions. Cisneros's first novel, The House on Mango Street, proved tremendously successful not only because of the quality of the writing, but because it captured Cisneros’s feelings about growing up Chicana in the United States. Only when she was able to celebrate her sense of being different did she truly find her voice.

Frequently Asked Questions about The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street

Esperanza gets angry when sexually maturing Sally plays with the neighborhood boys, running with them through the monkey garden. When the boys steal Sally's keys and want her to kiss all of them to...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2021, 12:24 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

On Sundays, when Esperanza's father is off from work, Esperanza's family takes trips out to look at the houses on the hill. These houses have gardens and epitomize the suburban lifestyle the family...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2021, 11:35 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Mamacita lives across the street from Esperanza in an apartment on the third floor. After arriving at the location with her infant son, she seemingly prefers the safety of her apartment to the...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2021, 5:48 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

People like Esperanza who are strong enough to leave and come back will make Mango Street better. Esperanza learns this near the end of the book, when she goes to see Rachel and Lucy's baby sister...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2021, 12:34 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

In The House on Mango Street, Mango Street represents origins but also suffering and, in some cases, even hope. Let's look at these in more detail. To Esperanza, Mango Street is home. It is where...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2021, 4:39 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Esperanza spends her early childhood moving from shabby apartment to shabby apartment. After the water pipes break in their apartment in Loomis, her parents decide to buy a house. Her parents had...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2021, 11:33 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Esperanza watches as Mamacita arrives on Mango Street one day in a taxi with her baby boy. She is a large, attractive woman in a hat with lots of luggage. Mamacita can only speak eight words of...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2021, 11:53 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

At the beginning of The House on Mango Street, Esperanza presents the American dream as a house, a large and luxurious temple to consumerism, "like the houses on T.V." This house would have plenty...

Latest answer posted December 27, 2021, 12:16 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Esperanza is dismayed by the house she and her family live in on Mango Street. It is dilapidated and privacy is difficult to achieve. Esperanza is embarrassed by her family's poverty and dreams of...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2021, 11:33 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Esperanza wishes for Sally that she could leave Mango Street for a "nice" house with "flowers and big windows," symbols of life and light. She hopes that beautiful Sally, with her long, flowing...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2021, 12:14 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Within the context of the book, Esperanza does not physically leave Mango Street. She has just moved there with her family as the novel opens, and she is there when it ends. In the novel's final...

Latest answer posted December 28, 2021, 11:38 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Early on in The House on Mango Street, Esperanza thinks about the great grandmother she is named for, a wild woman who didn't want to marry. Her husband had to kidnap her to marry him, and,...

Latest answer posted December 27, 2021, 12:59 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

The five deaths that are a part of Esperanza's youthful experience are a symbol of how fragile and precarious life is on Mango Street. People who die are Angel Vargas, Esperanza’s grandfather, Aunt...

Latest answer posted December 27, 2021, 12:09 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Sally in The House on Mango Street is a beautiful girl Esperanza admires. She has "eyes like Egypt" and long, shining black hair "like raven feathers" that lays on her back like a "satin shawl."...

Latest answer posted December 27, 2021, 11:39 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Esperanza becomes infatuated with Sire, a neighborhood boy with a bad reputation. She notices that Sire has been staring at her, and when she returns his stare one day, she is overcome with...

Latest answer posted December 27, 2021, 11:30 am (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Having told a variety of stories in various different ways throughout The House on Mango Street, Esperanza begins "Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes" by remarking that she likes to tell stories and is...

Latest answer posted December 26, 2021, 12:08 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

The House of Mango Street is not necessarily a true story. Parts of it are made up, imagined by the author. Yet, like many works of fiction, it contains autobiographical elements. For example, like...

Latest answer posted December 26, 2021, 12:33 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street has been a controversial text ever since it was first published in 1984. Like many controversial texts, it has been widely assigned in some schools for its...

Latest answer posted December 26, 2021, 12:35 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

Esperanza's age in The House on Mango Street is not given, but clues in the novel suggest she is a pre-adolescent girl of approximately 12 years old. She is old enough to be thinking about her...

Latest answer posted December 26, 2021, 12:46 pm (UTC)

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The House on Mango Street

The main message of Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street is the struggle to realize one's place in life, to find a true home, and to discover one's unique identity. Let's look at this in more...

Latest answer posted December 26, 2021, 6:12 pm (UTC)

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Summary