The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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Part II Summary: My Name, Cathy Queen of Cats, and Our Good Day

New Characters:

Cathy: one of Esperanza’s neighbors

Joe: man who lives next door to Cathy

Benny and Blanca: owners of the corner store

Edna: owner of the building next to Esperanza’s house

Alicia: Esperanza’s neighbor who is attending college

Rachel and Lucy: sisters who live across the street from Cathy

Tito: a neighborhood boy

My Name

Esperanza describes the meaning and origin of her name. The English translation is “hope,” but in Spanish, she says, it means something different, something sad. She was named after her great-grandmother, who, like Esperanza, was born in the Chinese Year of the Horse. That is supposed to be bad luck for women, Esperanza is told, but she doesn’t believe it. She thinks it’s a lie made up by men who “don’t like their women strong.”

Esperanza says she would have liked to have known her great-grandmother, a wild woman who refused to marry until her great-grandfather literally “carried her off” one day and forced her to marry him. After that, Esperanza’s great-grandmother was sad and spent the rest of her life looking out the window. Esperanza worries that because she inherited her great-grandmother’s name, she may also inherit her grandmother’s seat by the window.

Esperanza describes how the people at school have trouble pronouncing her name. She thinks “Esperanza” is prettier than “Magdalena,” but Magdalena can be shortened to Nenny, whereas Esperanza is “always Esperanza.” She would like to give herself a new name that is more like the real person inside her, a name that is different, like “Zeze the X.”

Cathy Queen of Cats

Esperanza meets Cathy, who tells her about some of the people in the neighborhood. Cathy agrees to be Esperanza’s friend, but only for a few days—her family is moving out because the neighborhood is “getting bad.” Cathy brags about being related to the queen of France, but Esperanza calls Cathy the queen of cats, since she has so many of them.

Our Good Day

Esperanza is sitting with Cathy when they are approached by Rachel and Lucy, the girls from across the street. Rachel says she will be Esperanza’s best friend forever if Esperanza gives her $5, which Lucy and Rachel need to buy Tito’s bike. Cathy tells Esperanza not to talk to these girls, but Esperanza likes them and gets the money for them. When she returns, Cathy is gone, but Esperanza now has two new friends and is part owner of a bike. Esperanza worries about how Rachel and Lucy will respond to her name, but they don’t laugh at it. The three girls ride the bike together around the neighborhood.

Analysis

Although Esperanza’s name means “hope” in English, Esperanza sees it meaning something altogether different in Spanish. In her native language, it means sadness, waiting—a longing or yearning for something past or missing rather than a hope for something yet to come. She compares her name to the Mexican songs her father plays, “songs like sobbing.” Hearing her name in Spanish seems to build in her a longing for Mexico, a nostalgia for the time when she didn’t have to worry about people laughing at her name, a time when she didn’t have to worry so much about fitting in. It also carries the sadness of her great-grandmother, from whom Esperanza inherited her name.

Like her great-grandmother, Esperanza was born in the Year of the Horse. Horses are strong—and strong-willed—animals. At her young age, Esperanza is already keenly aware of the patriarchal society that wishes to rob her of this strong will and independence. She has been told that being born in the Year of the Horse is bad luck for women, but Esperanza exposes this as a lie since “the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don’t like their women strong.” In reality, when a woman like Esperanza’s great-grandmother is born in the Year of the Horse, it is bad luck for both the men and the women. The men don’t have the quiet, submissive wives and daughters a patriarchal society demands, and they are forced to...

(The entire section is 1,418 words.)