The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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Part XIV Summary: The Monkey Garden, Red Clowns, and Linoleum Roses

New Characters:

Tito’s mother: who Esperanza runs to for help

Man at carnival: a man who molests Esperanza

Sally’s husband: a salesman

The Monkey Garden

Esperanza describes the monkey garden, a neighborhood garden where the previous owners kept a pet monkey. The garden has since grown wild and is now a place where they can play and disappear for a while. Esperanza describes the last time she went there, the time she wanted to die.

Esperanza wanted to play in the garden with the other children, but someone said she was too big to play. She urged Sally to join her, but Sally wanted to stay with Tito and his friends. Sally flirted with the boys and they stole her keys. To get them back, they said, Sally had to give them each a kiss. Sally agreed.

This infuriated Esperanza. She ran to Tito’s mother and told her what was happening, hoping Tito’s mother would stop them. Tito’s mother, however, was unconcerned. When Esperanza tried to “save” Sally herself, Sally and the boys told her to go away. Esperanza hid herself in the garden and cried. She wished her heart would stop beating. When she left the garden, it no longer seemed like a good place to her.

Red Clowns

Esperanza says Sally lied to her about what it is like to be with a man. Esperanza had been waiting for Sally at the carnival while Sally went off with a boy. Esperanza waited for a long time, but Sally never came back. Then a man grabbed Esperanza and she couldn’t get away from him. He kissed and touched her and told her he loved her. Esperanza tried to make him stop, but he wouldn’t. She says everything Sally and all the others had told her about love was a lie.

Linoleum Roses

Sally marries a marshmallow salesman. She tells Esperanza she married him because she’s in love, but Esperanza thinks she married him “to escape.” Sally says she’s happy—she has a lot of nice things now—but her husband sometimes loses his temper and he won’t let her talk to or see her friends. He won’t even let her look out the window. All she can do is look at the things inside.

Analysis

The monkey garden used to be a sanctuary for Esperanza, but in this long, descriptive vignette, it becomes a symbol of her childhood and innocence, something that Esperanza must leave behind.

The garden had been a place of freedom, a place where they could hide from each other and their mothers, where things could be hidden “for a thousand years.” But Esperanza cannot hide from the fact that Sally has crossed a line that Esperanza does not want to cross. Esperanza is still being pulled by the garden, a place Sally won’t go anymore because her stockings might get muddy. But Esperanza still wants to run with the others; she doesn’t listen to whoever it is that tells her she is “getting too old to play the games.” To Sally, those who play in the garden are kids—and she is not a kid anymore.

The distance between Sally and Esperanza here is wide. Sally has “her own game” now, a game Esperanza doesn’t understand. She is angry when Sally decides to play Tito’s game because it indicates Sally’s readiness to move on and become a woman, something Esperanza is not ready to do. It seems natural enough to Tito’s mother, but then, she is the mother of a boy. Had it been Sally’s mother Esperanza had gone to, the mother’s reaction would have been quite different. There is a suggestion of a double standard here, where boys are free to explore their sexuality but girls are not.

Esperanza’s attempt to save Sally makes her look ridiculous to Sally and the boys, and she feels ashamed. Hidden in the garden, she tries to will her heart to stop—but it won’t. When she gets up, her feet, which were so significant in two other vignettes that deal with Esperanza’s developing awareness of her sexuality (“Chanclas” and “The Family of Little Feet”), don’t “seem to be [hers] anymore. And the garden that had been such a good place to play didn’t seem [hers] either.”

This is the...

(The entire section is 1,233 words.)