The House on Mango Street Part VIII Summary: Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark, Born Bad, and Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water
by Sandra Cisneros

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Part VIII Summary: Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark, Born Bad, and Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water

New Characters:

Aunt Guadalupe (Aunt Lupe): Esperanza’s invalid aunt

Frank and Totchy: Aunt Lupe’s children

Elenita: a fortune teller in Esperanza’s neighborhood

Ernie: Elenita’s son

Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark

Esperanza’s father wakes her up early one morning to tell her that her grandfather has died. She is the first child he tells because she is the oldest, and she will have to tell the others. Esperanza wonders what she would do if she lost her father, who is always up and off to work before they even wake up. She has never seen him cry before, and she takes him into her arms and holds him.

Born Bad

Esperanza claims that she’ll probably go to hell and that she deserves to go because she was “born on an evil day” and because she, Rachel, and Lucy made fun of her Aunt Lupe, an invalid, who died soon after.

Aunt Lupe had been sick for a long time, but from old photographs Esperanza knew Aunt Lupe used to be strong and pretty. Esperanza wonders why Aunt Lupe was chosen to “go bad” and acknowledges the indiscriminate nature of disease.

Esperanza, Lucy, and Rachel liked Aunt Lupe. Esperanza often read library books to her aunt. Once, Esperanza recalls with shame, she tried to show Aunt Lupe a picture in one of her books. She didn’t realize that Aunt Lupe was blind.

Aunt Lupe also listened to Esperanza’s own stories and poems, and she encouraged Esperanza to keep writing. Still, they had become so used to Aunt Lupe’s illness that it was “easy” to imitate her in their mimicking game.

Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water

Esperanza goes to Elenita’s house to get her fortune told. Esperanza, who has been there before, fills up a glass with water for Elenita to look into. Elenita also reads Esperanza’s palm and a deck of cards. She tells Esperanza’s fortune: She will go to a wedding soon, and she has lost an anchor of arms. Esperanza asks Elenita about a house, because that’s what she really wants to know. Elenita answers that Esperanza will find “a home in the heart.” Esperanza doesn’t understand what this means.


Often it is difficult for us to accept that someone we love has died, and sometimes the loss doesn’t become real for us until we articulate it to others. That is what happens with Esperanza’s father, the “brave” man who suddenly “crumples like a coat and cries” when he tells Esperanza about his father.

Esperanza’s father has not been a prominent figure in the novel thus far (her mother has been a much stronger presence), but we realize, as does Esperanza, that her father is very important to her. He may be macho (this is the first time Esperanza has seen him cry), but he is also a hard worker. Every morning he “wakes up tired” and leaves before the children awake, already off to work a long, demanding day that leaves him exhausted. Though he is macho, he doesn’t seem to believe in machismo—he doesn’t imprison his daughter or wife like other men in the novel do.

The death of someone else’s father makes Esperanza realize—as death so often does—how much her own father means to her. She must also realize she is lucky to have the kind of father she has.

In “Born Bad,” Esperanza tells the story of the death of someone else who was very important to her. “Born Bad” is one of the longest vignettes in The House on Mango Street and also one of the most descriptive. It is the only vignette that includes a sample of Esperanza’s poetry.

Esperanza draws a sharp contrast between the Aunt Lupe that was—the strong, pretty, “[g]ood to look at” swimmer—and the Aunt Lupe that is: a sickly, blind “little oyster, a little piece of meat on an open shell.” Esperanza feels a great deal of guilt for making fun of Aunt Lupe, especially because Aunt Lupe died soon afterwards; but her reason for telling this story is not to absolve herself of the guilt. Rather, she is trying to understand why Aunt Lupe had been chosen to “go bad” in the first place.

The cause of Aunt...

(The entire section is 1,336 words.)