The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street book cover
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Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series The House on Mango Street Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The House on Mango Street offers a feminist view of society. Significantly, the book is dedicated “A las mujeres,” to women, which seems to indicate that the experiences portrayed pertain especially to women. From the beginning, the reader perceives Esperanza as a member of a marginal minority group, one that traditionally has upheld the most conservative tenets of patriarchy. The narrator, although she is only in early adolescence at most, is aware that she does not wish to follow the steps of any of her female predecessors. Her observations and conclusions reveal that she is preparing to challenge traditional ideologies concerning the status of women. In the section entitled “My Name,” among the earlier vignettes in the book, she comments on the origin of her Spanish name, Esperanza. She states that this was the name of her great-grandmother who, like her, was born in the Chinese Year of the Horse. She adds that according to the Chinese zodiac, it is bad luck to be born in that year if one is female, but she does not believe in this superstition. She thinks that the Chinese make such claims because they, like the Mexicans, do not like their women to be strong.

Esperanza opposes some of the traditional tenets of patriarchy. As a direct consequence of this opposition, she rebels against the concept of marriage as the only future available to a woman. Her rejection of oppressive marriages is apparent in several vignettes, such as the one in which she relates an unfortunate event in her great-grandmother’s life: She did not want to marry, but a man who wanted her for his wife captured her by placing a sack over her head and carrying her off. Her great-grandmother was then an unhappy woman who “looked out the window all her life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow,” states the narrator.

Esperanza also opposes traditional gender roles. She does not welcome the idea of having women be exclusively responsible for domestic tasks and having to spend their lives waiting on men. She confesses that she is fighting a war in this regard, which she makes evident by leaving the table “like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate.”

A woman’s freedom to select her own destiny and her right to receive earned respect are prominent ideas in The House on Mango Street . Although there is an abundance of images of women in the book, these women’s lives are not successful. On the contrary, the narrator enumerates the multiple failures of these characters. All the women in the novel can be placed into one of two categories: either those who depend economically on husbands and fathers or those who have been abandoned by men. Esperanza’s mother falls in the first group. She has...

(The entire section is 712 words.)