The House on Mango Street Masterpieces of Women's Literature The House on Mango Street Analysis
by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street book cover
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Masterpieces of Women's Literature The House on Mango Street Analysis

Cisneros’ training as a poet is evident in her ability to capture voices in her fiction and to craft prose of great lyric intensity. She has suggested that although her book was written in English, the syntax, sensibility, and ways of seeing things are very culturally Mexican. To catch some of the subtleties and jokes, a reader might even need intimate knowledge of Chicana culture, although the author is very conscious of having an English-speaking or worldwide audience. Thus Cisneros attempts in the rhythms as well as in the content of her language to share her Mexicana culture, as she prefers to call it. For effect and mood, she sometimes uses Spanish phrases that an English-only speaker must comprehend from context.

The House on Mango Street is between genres, between poetry and fiction—an experiment. It could be described as prose poems, a chain of vignettes, or short stories unified by the narrator’s voice and identity. The novel is not linear, but moves from one event to another, often revisiting settings and characters in much the same way that a young girl’s conversation or inner thoughts might skip from story to story or person to person by association or some other trigger of memory.

Cisneros’ primary concern is to chart a girl’s struggle for selfhood, exploring how one accepts or chooses not to accept one’s family, circumstances, and community. Throughout the novel, Esperanza insists, whimsically and desperately, that she must have a house of her own. She also intends to become a writer. The two needs are inseparable in the narrative. For Esperanza, the house symbolizes the act of writing, or a place in which to accomplish it. Her two wishes, to be a writer and to own her own house, are her prerequisites to freedom and self-identity. How artistic creation strengthens identity and provides dignity is an important theme. The house provides creative space.

Esperanza often thinks aloud about her identity, in subconscious or naïve ways. She is Chicana, or American by birth, and Mexican by parentage. This dual identity leads her to perceive two possibilities in everything that she encounters. One fundamental example is her name: In English it means “hope”; in Spanish it means “too many letters,” sadness, and waiting. She says she would like a new name: Esperanza wants to re-create herself from scratch and build the house that will reflect and define her. The house symbolizes the book of stories that she wants to write and her freedom to express herself.

Alicia, Esperanza’s mentor, is the woman who teaches her social responsibility. She shows her protégée that a woman can pursue her dreams despite male domination. Furthermore, Alicia tells Esperanza that she must come back to Mango Street. In the end, Esperanza acknowledges this tie, saying what she...

(The entire section is 709 words.)