Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1191
Alicia’s father: father of Alicia, Esperanza’s neighbor
Darius: a neighbor of Esperanza
Alicia Who Sees Mice
Alicia’s father tells her that the mice she sees while she is up studying at night don’t really exist—they’re just in her imagination. Besides, he says, she should be sleeping instead of studying so she can wake up early and cook for the family. Alicia’s mother died, and she has had to take her mother’s place at home while she attends a university across town. She is always tired because she has to travel far to the university and stays up late to study.
Darius & the Clouds
Esperanza laments the fact that there is not enough sky, butterflies, or flowers, but she is determined to make the best of it. Her neighbor, Darius, who she thinks is “a fool,” says something that she thinks is simple and profound: He points to a cloud and says, “That’s God.”
And Some More
Esperanza, Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel have a discussion about names: different names for snow, people, and clouds. Nenny tries to name all the clouds she sees in the sky and the others describe what the clouds look like. Lucy, Rachel, and Esperanza get into a mild fight and call each other names.
Alicia is a pivotal character in the novel. Like Esperanza, she desires something more than the traditional role for the Chicana woman. And like Esperanza, she has tremendous obstacles to face. Because her mother has died, Alicia, the oldest, must now assume that role and has to wake up early to take care of her family. She has “inherited her mama’s rolling pin and sleepiness,” but “because she doesn’t want to spend her whole life in a factory or behind a rolling pin,” she must struggle fiercely to go to, and stay in, school. She must study late into the night—sometimes all night—beginning only after her “woman’s work” is done.
Alicia’s father seems to think that her studying is not right, for it may keep her from rising “early with the tortilla star” and fulfilling her household duties. Despite this pressure from her father—or perhaps because of it—Alicia perseveres. But she is afraid of her father, who denies the reality of the poverty she is trying to escape by denying the existence of the mice, which scurry “under the swollen floorboards nobody fixes.” He also denies the reality of Alicia’s intelligence and desire for independence by telling her she’s imagining the mice.
Alicia’s father represents the patriarchal system that could, in a moment, take away her opportunity to control and improve her life. Alicia is afraid that she won’t be able to determine for herself what her “place” is and will end up succumbing to her father’s idea of where a woman belongs. It is important that Esperanza sees Alicia as “a good girl” and a friend, for Alicia serves as an important role model for Esperanza.
“Darius & the Clouds” opens with “You can never have too much sky.” The sky, with its endless, open expanse, is a symbol of freedom, of liberty, and of openness. “Here”—on Mango Street, in the urban Chicano barrio, in America—“there is too much sadness,” Esperanza says, “and not enough sky.” This is ironic because America is supposed to be the land of the free. Still, she and the other Chicanos (the “we” in this vignette) are in America now, and they will “take what [they] can get and make the best of it.” Their willingness to work with the circumstances is admirable.
The wisdom of Darius’s statement lies in its simplicity and innocence: He notices a fat cloud in the sky and says, “That’s God.” Here, Darius reduces the idea of God to the simplest level: God is where we wish to see him, especially in beautiful things. The cloud is also an appropriate place to “see” God because it is ephemeral, intangible, and as omnipotent as the water of which it is made.
In “And Some More,” Cisneros returns to the issues of names and language and to the cloud motif. First, Esperanza claims that the Eskimos have 30 different names for snow—a fact Lucy has a hard time accepting. But Nenny is quick to realize that classifying something into different kinds denies each element its individuality. Classifying snow, for example, denies each snowfall, and each flake, its uniqueness, and so she says there are “a million zillion kinds” of snow, “no two exactly alike.” Snow is a symbol for people—though we try and try to classify them, no two people are exactly alike, and, like Nenny says, there are a million zillion different kinds. No two snowflakes—or people—are formed in exactly the same design, and no two snowfalls—or people—are exactly the same.
As for the Eskimos having 30 different names for snow, they do. This fact reveals an important function of language. Language serves as a mirror of our reality. For Eskimos, whose world is a world of snow, it is crucial for their survival that they be able to distinguish between different types of snowfall. Their language, therefore, must reflect the reality of their world. For Rachel and Lucy, who come from Texas and have very little experience with snow, it is not surprising that they only know of two kinds—clean (fresh) snow and dirty snow. Their experience with snow is limited. Lucy’s simplistic view of snow, limiting it to only two narrowly defined categories, represents the view of people whose experience with the world (and with different kinds of people) is limited, and shows their readiness to categorize and limit.
Most important, however, is Nenny’s insistence on giving every cloud individual status. Esperanza wants to classify clouds as cumulus and nimbus, showing off her “scientific” knowledge, but Nenny rejects this classification and says “No…That there is Nancy, otherwise known as Pig-eye.” “There are all different kinds of clouds,” just like there are all different kinds of people, and they cannot simply be categorized by appearance. They all deserve the dignity of a name and to be recognized as individuals, not as a type.
Thus, this vignette, though it seems lighthearted and humorous, is really about the power of language to both limit and liberate—to both deny identity and grant it.
There is a noticeable lack of quotation marks and speaker cues here, which some readers may find confusing. The speaker listing the names for the clouds is Nenny, while the insults are traded by Esperanza, Lucy, and Rachel. The lack of clearly marked dialogue here helps establish this as a young writer’s (Esperanza’s) work, as written by someone perhaps unaware of all the written conventions of the English language. It also makes the words on the page appear less encumbered, more free. Cisneros doesn’t use quotation marks in this vignette or anywhere throughout the novel, perhaps to indicate that our words don’t belong to us so much as to our listeners.
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