Last Updated on May 17, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 728
A House of My Own
Esperanza describes the house she wants to have some day: a house completely her own, that belongs entirely to her, with only her things—her books, her stories, her shoes—inside.
Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes
Esperanza says that she likes to tell stories and that she makes up stories about her life as she experiences things. She says she is going to tell the story of a girl “who didn’t want to belong.” She describes the houses she’s lived in and says she remembers the house on Mango Street the most. When she writes this story down, it makes her feel better; it sets her free from Mango Street.
Esperanza says that one day she will leave Mango Street and everyone will wonder where she’s gone. They won’t know that she left so that she can come back for the others.
“A House of My Own” is the shortest vignette in the novel. In it, Esperanza defines the house she longs for. She explains what it is not first. It is not a house she inherits from a father or inhabits with a husband, and there is “[n]obody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after.” It is not a house where Esperanza will fill the traditional role of homemaker and housekeeper.
Instead, her house will be quiet and clean, a house for her alone, a house made by, and for, herself. It will have only her things: “my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and stories.”
Again, the house is both literal and symbolic. Esperanza is a writer, and artists need their own space to create and to develop their craft. Esperanza wants “a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.” Not before a poem, but the poem, the poem to come.
As a woman, Esperanza needs her own space, too—the space to determine who and what she will be, the opportunity to be something other than a daughter and wife. And as a person, she needs to come to terms with, and accept, who she is—her strengths and weaknesses, her fears and her dreams, her uniqueness and her heritage.
This vignette, in its brevity and use of language, is one of the most poetic in the novel. It employs alliteration (porch, pillows, pretty purple petunias) and repetition (“not,” “my,” and “nobody”), and it is compact—it has the brevity and tight structure of a poem. And, like a poem, it breaks the rules of grammar: every sentence is a fragment. Esperanza breaks these rules to express herself like she will break the “rules” (and roles) that oppress Chicana women.
Before Esperanza begins to write her stories about Mango Street, before she begins to tell the story of the “girl who didn’t want to belong,” Mango Street has a tight hold on Esperanza because she so desperately wants to get away from it. When she begins to write about it, however, she begins to accept that she is part of Mango Street—“the house I belong but do not belong to.” Her writing will slowly enable her to say: I do belong. And this will set her free.
This last vignette explains the structure of the novel. Esperanza, in this final vignette, begins to tell the story of Mango Street. This story begins the same way the novel itself begins, in the exact same words. In the third sentence, however, Esperanza makes an important change. Now what she remembers most is not “moving a lot,” but “Mango Street.” Writing about Mango Street gives Esperanza courage, courage to realize that she is strong enough to leave Mango Street—and strong enough to come back. She will leave with her papers and books so that she can tell her story.
This story itself is a symbolic return to Mango Street. Esperanza needn’t physically come back, though she will. Instead, her words will come to those “who cannot out.” By sharing her story, Esperanza will give strength to others.
The novel, then, completes the circle; it is Esperanza’s return. It is evidence that she has been freed, and that she has finally found a “real house”—a house within her heart, where she and all the people from Mango Street still reside.
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