The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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Part III Summary: Laughter, Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold, Meme Ortiz, and Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin

New Characters:

Gil: owner of the junk store near Esperanza’s house

Meme Ortiz: Juan “Meme” Ortiz, one of Esperanza’s neighbors

Louie: one of Esperanza’s neighbors

Marin: Louie’s cousin from Puerto Rico

Louie’s other cousin: Louie’s unnamed cousin, a young man

Laughter

Esperanza discusses her likeness to Nenny. They don’t look too much alike, but they are similar in other ways, like their laughter. Esperanza describes how one day, when they were with Lucy and Rachel, they passed a house that reminded Esperanza of Mexico. Esperanza said that the house looked “like Mexico,” and though Lucy and Rachel looked at her as if she were crazy, Nenny knew exactly what she meant.

Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold

Esperanza describes Gil’s junk store, which she and Nenny often explore. Nenny once discovered a music box, which Gil started up for them. Though the box itself wasn’t pretty, the music mesmerized the girls. Nenny tried to buy the music box, but Gil said it wasn’t for sale.

Meme Ortiz

Meme, whose real name is Juan, moved into Cathy’s house after she moved away. Esperanza describes Meme and his dog, who also has two names, and Meme’s house, which Cathy’s father built. His yard has a huge tree that the neighborhood children decided to use for a Tarzan jumping contest. Meme won the contest, but he broke both of his arms.

Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin

Louie, who lives downstairs from Meme, has a cousin, Marin, who lives with them and is always babysitting his little sisters. She can never come out, so she stands in the doorway, singing. Louie’s other cousin only came to Mango Street once. He rode up in a big fancy Cadillac and took Esperanza and others for a ride around and around the block. Then the police came, and Louie’s cousin ordered everyone out of the car. He tried to outrun the police but crashed in an alley too skinny for his Cadillac. The police handcuffed him and took him away.

Analysis

Esperanza’s similarities to Nenny demonstrate that although two people may not look very much alike (have no visible similarity), they can be very much alike on a deeper and more profound level. The similarities that Esperanza points out are significant. First, their laughter: Both laugh “all of a sudden and surprised like a pile of dishes breaking” (a shattering, incidentally, of domestic wares). Second, they both share a past, a history—a sense of place and belonging in Mexico. Only the two of them know what Esperanza means when she says that the house “looks like Mexico.” In a sense they are both outsiders, for no one else knows what they mean, but they are also insiders, for they are the only ones who understand.

Gil’s store may be a “junk” store, but it is also a treasure shop, calling to mind the aphorism “one man’s shack is another man’s castle.” Esperanza and Nenny are too poor to buy much there, but they like to go there because they can see “all kinds of things.” Gil is a minority too, but of a different kind—he is black, not Hispanic, and this may explain why he “doesn’t talk too much.”

It is significant that the one thing Esperanza does buy from Gil is a miniature Statue of Liberty. The statue is perhaps the ultimate American symbol of independence. But even for a small replica of this statue, Esperanza must pay. It is significant that despite her poverty, she makes the purchase, indicating that she is willing to pay a price for her freedom.

The music box, too, is significant. Esperanza and Nenny are amazed at what comes out of the plain old wooden box. When Gil winds it up, “all sorts of things start happening.” The music triggers something in the sisters, making them both want to buy it. Esperanza, who perhaps understands the value of such a box, assumes that she can’t afford it, so she turns away and pretends not to care. She calls herself stupid, and Nenny too, for wanting something they can’t have. That the music sounds like marimbas suggests that the...

(The entire section is 1,338 words.)