The House on Mango Street Part IV Summary: Marin, Those Who Don’t, and There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do
by Sandra Cisneros

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Part IV Summary: Marin, Those Who Don’t, and There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do

New Characters:

Davey the Baby, his sister and brother: residents of Esperanza’s neighborhood

Fat Boy: a resident of Esperanza’s neighborhood

Eddie, Refugia, Efren, Angel, and the other Vargas kids: residents of Esperanza’s neighborhood and children of Rosa Vargas

Rosa Vargas: a resident of Esperanza’s neighborhood and a single mother


Esperanza describes Marin, who is secretly engaged to a boy in Puerto Rico. Marin sells Avon products and is trying to save up money for her marriage. She will probably be sent back to Puerto Rico next year by Louie’s parents, but Esperanza hopes not because Marin is her source of gossip and feminine advice. Marin is always babysitting, but even when she’s not she is forbidden to leave the property. At night, Marin escapes to the front of the house so the boys can see her. Sometimes she dances alone under the street light, but always, it seems, she is waiting.

Those Who Don’t

Esperanza notes that people “who don’t know any better” expect her neighborhood to be dangerous, and they are afraid. But those who live on and near Mango Street know better, because they know each other and are comfortable in a neighborhood where everyone is “brown.” Esperanza admits, however, that when they—the “brown” people—go into a neighborhood of a different color, they, too, are afraid.

There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do

Rosa Vargas, one of Esperanza’s neighbors, has too many children—many more than she can handle. Her husband left her without an explanation and without any money. The children are reckless and disrespectful. The neighbors have gotten tired of worrying about the Vargas children and have given up trying to guide them. Now the neighbors are indifferent when the Vargas children hurt themselves, even when Angel Vargas kills himself one day while “learn[ing] to fly.”


Marin is a young woman who wants to grow up fast and is waiting for an opportunity to escape Mango Street. She is trapped inside all day and at night is allowed to go only as far as the front yard. Her boundaries are clear, yet within her boundaries, she rebels. She smokes, wears make-up and short skirts, flirts unflinchingly with the neighborhood boys, and dances alone under the streetlight. She also serves as a source of feminine “wisdom” for the other girls since she is a bit older. She plans to marry her boyfriend if she goes back to Puerto Rico, and, if not, to marry a nice man she’ll meet on the subway, someone who’ll take her “to live in a big house far away” from Mango Street, babysitting, and boundaries. What Marin doesn’t realize is that marriage brings with it its own boundaries, both figurative and literal.

Still Marin waits, Esperanza says, “for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.” Marin is waiting for someone else to take her away, for someone else to change her life, instead of making the change on her own. Unless she herself makes the change, she will spend the rest of her life waiting for the next car, the next star, the next someone.

In “Those Who Don’t,” the novel’s second shortest vignette, Esperanza addresses two of the largest themes of the novel: stereotyping and prejudice. Esperanza notices that people “who don’t know any better”—non-Hispanics—are afraid in Esperanza’s neighborhood. They assume that because Hispanics are “different,” they are dangerous and ready to attack strangers who enter their neighborhood. But Esperanza knows better. She knows, for example, who Fat Boy and Eddie Vargas are, and she knows they are not dangerous people. Her familiarity with the people in the neighborhood—and the color of the people in her neighborhood—takes away Esperanza’s fear. Were “those who don’t know better” to spend some time in her neighborhood, they would no longer be afraid.

Esperanza acknowledges this prejudice against her neighborhood, and though it makes her sad,...

(The entire section is 1,143 words.)