Part XII Summary: Minerva Writes Poems and Bums in the Attic

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Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 684

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Minerva: a neighbor and friend of Esperanza

Minerva’s husband: frequently beats his wife

Minerva Writes Poems

Minerva, who is just a few years older than Esperanza, already has two children. She also has a husband who beats her. Minerva often kicks her husband out, but he apologizes and she lets him come back, only to have him beat her again. Minerva cries often, and at night, when she is alone, she writes poems on scraps of paper. She and Esperanza share their poems with each other.

Bums in the Attic

Esperanza wants a house like the ones her father takes the family to see on Sundays—a house on a hill with a garden. Esperanza refuses to go with them anymore because she’s ashamed of the way they stare hungrily at the houses. She declares that one day she’ll have her own house and won’t forget where she came from. She’ll take in bums who pass by and let them sleep in the attic, because she knows how it feels not to have a home.

Analysis

Minerva, whose “luck is unlucky,” is caught in a cycle. Her husband beats her, and she kicks him out. When he apologizes, she lets him return—and he beats her again. He is the husband “who left and keeps leaving”—but she lets him keep returning, probably because she is very young (just “a little bit older” than Esperanza) and has two children to take care of. If she is strong enough to break the cycle with her husband, however, she will end up in another cycle, raising her children alone, just like her mother did.

The vignette, therefore, is filled with images of circles. Minerva cries night and day, around the clock; the kids eat round pancakes for dinner; and the paper on which Minerva writes her poems “smell like a dime.”

Minverva asks Esperanza an important question: “What can she do?” This is a difficult question. Neither of Minerva’s prospects—kicking her husband out for good and struggling with her children on her own or simply sustaining her husband’s abuse—are appealing. Esperanza’s “answer” is “There is nothing I can do.” She understands that only Minerva has the power to help herself. She is in the cycle; she must break it.

There is, however, something Esperanza can do, and is doing: sharing poems with Minerva. In Esperanza, Minerva knows she has a companion with whom she can share her thoughts, with whom she can express herself. This is probably more important to Minerva than either of them realize, and it may be the one thing that keeps Minerva going. If Minerva keeps writing, it may set her free. Despite Minerva’s constant sadness, there is hope that she will break the cycle.

In “Bums in the Attic,” Esperanza breaks a cycle she has been caught up in. Until now she has been trying to forget who she is and where she came from. Now, she says, when she gets her own house, she “won’t forget.” She has realized that people “who live on hills…forget those of us who live too much on earth.” Either they never knew what it was like to “live too much on earth” (to be without a real home), or they have tried to forget that they didn’t always live on hills; and so their houses are closed to those who are without. Esperanza wants the contentment of the hill dwellers, but not their indifference. Her happiness will come not from forgetting, but from remembering and from helping those without a home.

It is significant that Esperanza doesn’t go to see the houses anymore. Her family is offended, but they don’t understand that she is ashamed of “all of us staring out the window like the hungry” and that she is “tired of looking at what we can’t have.” They continue to dream and talk of winning the lottery, but Esperanza is tired of waiting for their someday to come. Now she is thinking about her own someday.

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Part XIII Summary: Beautiful & Cruel, A Smart Cookie, and What Sally Said