Form and Content

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The House on Mango Street is presented in forty-four vignettes that run from a fragment of a page to two or three pages. The young narrator, Esperanza, provides coherence to the book: Her voice, in a scarcely interrupted monologue, is present throughout. The predominant point of view of the narrative is the first-person singular, but the narrator makes extensive use of the third-person singular while describing the other characters in the work.

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One can view The House on Mango Street either as a nontraditional novel made up of sketches or as a series of thematically related short stories. In addition to the constant presence of the narrator, which brings together the vignettes as chapters of the same book, the work presents other structural features that define it as a novel—for example, the recurring image of a comfortable house, which becomes a metaphor for the independence that Esperanza desires. As in short stories, however, there is limited character development within the vignettes.

Esperanza was born in the bosom of a loving Mexican American family of modest resources. She recalls having moved frequently and having lived in rundown apartment buildings. Although her family owns their current house located on Mango Street, Esperanza does not feel satisfied in it.

The narrator provides descriptions of both the house in which she lives at the present and the house that her parents have promised their children. The house on Mango Street has no front yard and is small and constructed of red brick. It has small steps leading to the front door, and the windows are so small that the family does not seem to have space to breathe. The lack of enough room prevents the family members from having the privacy that they need; every time someone takes a bath, he or she must make an announcement first so that no one will accidentally walk in. The size of this house, however, is not the only problem. The reader perceives that it is an old building in which some of the bricks are crumbling, a detail that perhaps points to the material decadence of the neighborhood.

Esperanza’s parents talk about having a home like those on television. It will be a comfortable white house, with a large open front yard planted with trees. It will have an interior staircase, three bathrooms, and abundant running water. Esperanza realizes that a home like this is only a dream for her family and decides that it will be up to her to get the house she wants in the future.

Esperanza’s dream home becomes synonymous with individual economic and social independence, which one can obtain through education and the cultivation of one’s native talents.

In addition to developing gradually the metaphor of a house as symbolic of a self-reliant existence, the narrative relates Esperanza’s childhood games, alludes to the loving relationship that she maintains with her family, and describes the activities of the neighbors.

Places Discussed

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*Mango Street

*Mango Street. Street in the Hispanic neighborhood of Chicago, where author Sandra Cisneros was born. The young narrator of her novel, Esperanza, lives with her family in a small, redbrick house at 4006 Mango Street. Its bricks are crumbling in places, and its front door is swollen and hard to move. The house has no front yard, only four skinny elm trees the city has planted by the curb, trees that manage to grow in the cement. The house’s small backyard looks even smaller because it is enclosed by buildings on either side. Esperanza is ashamed of her house and longs to move away from Mango Street to a larger house in a better neighborhood.

The neighborhood is a busy place filled with children and adults engaged in a number of activities. Children play volleyball in the alley, and boys riding homemade bicycles shout at girls walking by. Kids bend trees, bounce between parked cars, and hang upside-down from their knees. A boy pushes Esperanza into an open water hydrant, and other boys sit on bikes in front of a house pitching pennies. Neighbors come out to see the crash of a big yellow Cadillac, listen for the sirens, and watch as cops handcuff the driver. In front of the tavern, a bum sits on a stoop. People wait to take the subway train to downtown. Strangers to the neighborhood fear that it is dangerous; however, the neighborhood is a place in which Esperanza feels safe.

Precious Blood Church

Precious Blood Church. Center of social life for Esperanza’s family and neighbors. On the day of a cousin’s baptism, the family members dance in the church basement, which has been rented out for the occasion. People wear their finest clothes and enjoy the party, the dancing, and eating tamales as children run all over the place.

Monkey Garden

Monkey Garden. Secret place in a neighborhood yard where a family that owned a monkey once lived. After the family left, Esperanza and her friends make a clubhouse of the yard, using the back of an old blue pickup. Filled with sunflowers, spiders, worms, beetles, ants, ladybugs, and a hibiscus tree, the Monkey Garden is a place where the children’s mothers cannot find them.

*Mexico

*Mexico. Original home to many people in the neighborhood whose culture continues to influence their lives. Esperanza’s father flies to Mexico for the funeral of his mother after she dies. When Mamacita’s husband brings her to Chicago to be with him, she becomes homesick for Mexico and does not come out of the apartment because she does not speak English.

White house

White house. Esperanza’s dream home. One day Esperanza wants to escape her dreary surroundings and move to a home of her own, not a flat or apartment, not a man’s house, or a daddy’s house, but her own house—one with a porch and pretty purple petunias. She yearns for a house as quiet as snow, a white house surrounded by trees with a big yard and no fence. Her dream house would have running water, a basement, and at least three washrooms. It would have no nosy neighbors watching, no motorcycles and cars, no sheets and towels and laundry, only trees and plenty of blue sky. Esperanza wants a house on a hill like the one with a garden where her father works. She thinks that people who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget the people who live on earth. As she describes the house she wants to own, she points to the dismal surroundings of her present life. Esperanza’s dream house becomes synonymous with individual economic and social independence, which one can obtain through education and the cultivation of one’s native talents.

Form and Content

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Based on Sandra Cisneros’ experiences growing up in a Latino neighborhood of Chicago, The House on Mango Street is the story of a girl’s search for identity as she comes of age. The narrative covers one crucial year in her life. Esperanza Cordero, a young Chicana, draws her identity from her parents’ Mexican heritage and from the culture of the Mexican American community in which she grows up. She narrates the stories, describing herself, her neighbors, their dreams, and the world of Mango Street. In the process, she gains an understanding of herself and her community.

Cisneros has described the forty-six vignettes that make up the novel as crosses between poems and short stories. The tiny chapters are written in intensely lyrical prose, highly charged with metaphor, like prose poetry. Esperanza’s voice unifies the narrative. Her search for identity shapes the plot, which is otherwise loosely defined.

Esperanza’s descriptions focus on the women whom she knows, their lives often made difficult by the men who dominate them. Her childish yet mature perspective illuminates the ways in which society-at-large oppresses Latin Americans. The Latina women whom Esperanza describes bear a double yoke. They live in a strongly patriarchal society, often in fear of violence. Their choices for survival and self-expression are limited. Meanwhile, many suffer along with their men from living in poverty. Their burden is the fate that the narrator wishes to escape. Esperanza describes her family’s house on Mango Street as sad. She feels ashamed of it, as she did of the old apartment, and dreams of having her own house someday.

Keenly observant and intuitive, Esperanza describes her world with a child’s innocence which is beginning to fade. She is approaching puberty, with its longings and confusion. Her older friend Alicia, a college student who wakes up with the “tortilla star” every morning to pack her younger siblings’ lunchboxes, helps her and encourages her to write about herself. Esperanza’s ruminations are emotional, troubled, and exuberant. In many vignettes, she tests her sexuality, marvels at her body’s changes, and savors her adolescent emotions.

Sally, the beautiful girl in the neighborhood, influences Esperanza because she seems to know how to express her sexuality. Esperanza calls herself the ugly daughter, and Sally’s self-assurance impresses her. One night, however, Esperanza is humiliated when she tries to rescue Sally from a group of boys only to find that Sally does not desire to be saved. Sally completes her betrayal by disappearing at the carnival. She leaves Esperanza, who is raped that night. Sally’s marriage to a traveling salesman frees her from her abusive father but brings her to a new kind of prison.

As Esperanza matures, her interest in her identity grows. Latino society limits her to traditional roles. Esperanza calls marriage a ball and chain, and she recalls her grandmother pining for freedom at her windowsill. Esperanza is her grandmother’s namesake, but she does not want to share her circumstances. Consequently, Esperanza rejects traditional roles and seeks those who can help her write. Her Aunt Guadalupe, who is terminally ill, encourages her. Minerva, a struggling mother her own age, exchanges sad poems with Esperanza. Elenita, the “witch woman,” tells her that she will have “a home in the heart.” Only later does Esperanza understand that this cryptic message means Mango Street will always be with her, even after she goes away, with her books and papers. The young writer will represent her community, becoming its voice and historian. She is devoted to the women of the community. She says in the end that she will have “gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot get out.”

Context

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Sandra Cisneros dedicates The House on Mango Street “A Las Mujeres: To the Women.” The feminism of these stories is not tied to the mainstream feminist movement in the United States, however, but to the struggle of poor, working-class, uneducated women of American Latino culture. Her fiction exposes male violence and deception from a girl’s point of view, making the suffering of these women at the hands of the men in Chicano/Mexican culture seem even more devastating. Yet the female characters appear that much stronger in their opposition to these hindrances.

At the same time, Cisneros’ novel exposes the myth of the traditional role of Mexican and Latina women. While her female characters may at first seem humble, tied to household duties, and self-effacing—exemplary of the so-called traditional Latina—they are actually tough fighters. Their fierceness and strength is evident in Guadalupe, Minerva, Alicia, and the narrator herself. They are underprivileged women; nevertheless, they fight patriarchy, fight for selfhood, and fight for education. Even Sally resists the role that her father—or society—plans for her, however unfulfilled she remains in her marriage bedroom (which the narrator describes in an ironic aside: “the ceiling smooth as a wedding cake”).

The House on Mango Street, published in 1984, was Cisneros’ first book of fiction. With its appearance, she becomes recognized as one of the most powerful of the young Chicana writers—writers such as Ana Castillo, Denise Chavez, and Gloria Anzaldua whose work first emerged in the 1980’s. Cisneros has also published Woman Hollering Creek (1991), a collection of stories, and My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1987), a volume of poetry. These works also explore the themes of feminism, biculturalism, classism, family violence, artistic creativity, and personal identity. Cisneros’ work offers insights into the lives of contemporary Latina women, and grapples with issues of power and selfhood that concern all women.

Historical Context

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Mexican Immigration to the United States
Cisneros plays on her dual Mexican American heritage throughout her work, and The House on Mango Street in particular reflects the experience of Mexicans in the United States. In the mid-nineteenth century, Mexico ceded its northern territories (present-day California, Arizona, and New Mexico) to the United States at the end of the Mexican War, and Mexican landowners lost many of their rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. From about 1900 to 1920, immigrants from Mexico were actively recruited into the United States as low-cost labor for railroad, mining, and other industries, especially throughout the southwestern United States. Mexican immigration was widespread and unregulated through the 1920s, when immigration from Mexico and some other countries hit its peak. Between World War I and World War II, however, Mexican immigration came to a halt due in part to the pressures of the Great Depression, and Mexican Americans faced repatriation, poverty, and rampant discrimination.

Despite their contribution and service to the U.S. Army during World War II, Mexican Americans continued to face discrimination upon returning home after World War II. For example, many Mexican Americans were treated like second-class citizens. And throughout the fifties and sixties, despite their eagerness to integrate more fully into American society, Mexican Americans were still treated as "outsiders" by mainstream American culture. Despite their push for civil rights throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, many Chicanos still faced discrimination that limited opportunities for advancement. By 1983, when The House on Mango Street was published, stringent U.S. immigration laws had long limited the number of Mexicans who were allowed to immigrate to the United States. Those who had immigrated legally or been born in America still experienced stereotyping and biases in American culture at large. In "Those Who Don't," Cisneros evokes the stereotyping of Mexican Americans: "Those who don't know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we're dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives."

Because of the discrimination often leveled at Spanish-speaking populations by English-speaking Americans, many Mexican Americans choose to resist speaking Spanish except among family within the privacy of their homes. Cisneros, for example, remembers that she only spoke Spanish with her father at home, while otherwise being fully integrated within the mainstream American educational system. On the other hand, other Mexican Americans, particularly those of the older generations who retained a nostalgia for their mother country, never relinquished the use of Spanish as their primary tongue. In The House on Mango Street, for example, Mamacita consciously refused to speak English because for her it represented a blatant rejection of her past and her identity, and she limited her English vocabulary to "He not here," "No speak English," and "Holy smokes." Esperanza's father remembers eating nothing but "hamandeggs" when he first arrived in the United States because it was the only English phrase he knew. In the United States today, there is a renewed interest among the younger generation of Mexican Americans to learn and more fully appreciate the Spanish language.

Hispanic American Population and Culture
The largest number of Mexican Americans in the United States are concentrated in southern California and Texas, with another sizable population in New York City. As one of the largest cities in the United States, Chicago historically has also attracted immigrants from around the world, including those from Mexico. Cisneros and her mother were born in the United States, as are many of the characters in The House on Mango Street. Nevertheless, they retain strong ties with their Mexican heritage and are integrated into the Mexican American communities throughout the country. In different parts of the country, these groups are referred to as "Mexican American," "Mexicanos," "Chicanos," and sometimes by the more general terms "Hispanics" or "Latinos," which collectively describes people from those cultures colonized by Spain from the fifteenth century to the present, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and many other countries. The population of Hispanics in the United States continues to swell, and by some estimates, they will make up about thirteen percent of the nation's population by the early years of the twenty-first century.

Historically, Mexican American men and women have suffered negative stereotyping and prejudices that prevented them from securing desirable jobs and being upwardly mobile within the society. Therefore, many remain concentrated in low-income neighborhoods like the one portrayed in The House on Mango Street. Poverty is a reality faced by many Mexican American populations living in the United States. In The House on Mango Street, the theme of poverty pervades the stories In "Alicia Who Sees Mice," for example, the mice are a symbol of poverty. Alicia, who stays up late studying because she "doesn't want to spend her whole life in a factory or behind a rolling pin," sees the mice scurrying around after dark, a symbol of her circumstances in the neighborhood. In The House on Mango Street, the source of Esperanza's embarrassment about her house and her circumstances derives from the poverty that many Mexican Americans face. In "Bums in the Attic," the economic disparity between "people who live on hills" and those who live in the barrio is clear.

The role of women within the history of the Hispanic community is significant. Although in The House on Mango Street and other works by Cisneros, some Mexican American women are portrayed as trapped within a cycle of socialization, Cisneros noted in a 1992 interview in Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World, "I have to say that the traditional role is kind of a myth. The traditional Mexican woman is a fierce woman. There's a lot of victimization but we are also fierce. We are very fierce."

Cisneros says she was influenced by American and British writers throughout high school, and she remembers reading works such as Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But only when she was introduced to the Chicago writing scene in college and graduate school did Cisneros come in contact with Chicano writers. Later, Chicano writers like Gary Soto, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and Alberto Rios were also among her circle of colleagues. Today, Sandra Cisneros stands foremost among Chicana writers who emerged in the 1980s, including Ana Castillo, Denise Chavez, and Gloria Anzaldua.

Literary Style

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Point of View
The House on Mango Street is narrated by the adolescent Esperanza, who tells her story in the form of short, vivid tales. The stories are narrated in the first person ("I"), giving the reader an intimate glimpse of the girl's outlook on the world. Although critics often describe Esperanza as a childlike narrator, Cisneros said in a 1992 interview in Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World: "If you take Mango Street and translate it, it's Spanish. The syntax, the sensibility, the diminutives, the way of looking at inanimate objects—that's not a child's voice as is sometimes said. That's Spanish! I didn't notice that when I was writing it." Incorporating and translating Spanish expressions literally into English, often without quotation marks, adds a singular narrative flavor that distinguishes Cisneros's work from that of her peers.

Setting
The House on Mango Street is set in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza briefly describes some of the rickety houses in her neighborhood, beginning with her own, which she says is "small and red with tight steps in front." Of Meme Ortiz's house, Esperanza says that "Inside the floors slant—And there are no closets. Out front there are twenty-one steps, all lopsided and jutting like crooked teeth." Mamacita's son paints the inside walls of her house pink, a reminder of the Mexican home she left to come to America. The furniture in Elena's house is covered in red fur and plastic. Esperanza gives the impression of a crowded neighborhood where people live in close quarters and lean out of windows, and where one can hear fighting, talking, and music coming from other houses on the street. Esperanza describes the types of shops in the concrete landscape of Mango Street: a laundromat, a junk store, the corner grocery. Cats, dogs, mice, and cockroaches make appearances at various times. However, while Esperanza gives fleeting glimpses of specific places, the images that the girl paints of her neighborhood are mostly understood through the people that inhabit it.

Structure
Just like Esperanza, whose identity isn't easy to define, critics have had difficulty classifying The House on Mango Street. Is it a collection of short stories? A novel? Essays? Autobiography? Poetry? Prose poems? The book is composed of very short, loosely organized vignettes. Each stands as a whole in and of itself, but collectively the stories culminate in a mounting progression that creates an underlying coherence; the setting remains constant, and the same characters reappear throughout the tales. Cisneros once explained: "I wanted to write stories that were a cross between poetry and fiction—I wanted to write a collection which could be read at any random point without having any knowledge of what came before or after." Despite the disjunctive nature of the stories, as they evolve, Esperanza undergoes a maturation process, and she emerges at the end showing a more courageous and forthright facade.

Imagery
Despite certain underlying threads that link the tales in The House on Mango Street, the stories nonetheless remain disembodied from the kind of master narrative that typifies much of American fiction. The stories have a surreal and fragmented quality consistent with short, impressionistic glimpses into the mind of Esperanza. Rather than relying on long descriptive and narrative sequences that characterize many novels in English, Cisneros reveals dialogue and evokes powerful imagery with few words. With a minimum number of words, Cisneros includes humorous elements like the nicknames of her playmates, family, and neighbors—Nenny, Meme, and Kiki, for example. But she also, with few descriptive elements, evokes the ugliness of violence and sexual aggression swirling around her in the barrio. The author's carefully crafted, compact sentences convey poignant meanings that can be read on different levels. Seemingly simple dialogue reveals deeper, underlying concerns of the narrator. A straightforward dialogue between Esperanza and Nenny about a house that reminded the girls of Mexico in the story "Laughter," for example, evokes the connection of the girls to one another and to the country of their heritage. The bizarre yet moving experiences of Esperanza evoke a social commentary but do not explicitly state it. Cisneros strikes a tenuous balance between humor and pathos, between tragic and comic elements.

Symbols
Several important symbolic elements characterize The House on Mango Street. First, the image of the house is a powerful one. The house that Esperanza lives in—small, crooked, drab—contrasts with the image of the house that Esperanza imagines for herself in "Bums in the Attic". "I want a house on a hill like the ones with the gardens where Papa works." But the metaphor of the house is more than pure materialism. The house represents everything that Esperanza does not have—financial means and pleasant surroundings—but more importantly, it represents stability, triumph, and transcendence over the pressures of the neighborhood. Throughout the book, especially in stones such as "The House on Mango Street," and "A Rice Sandwich," Esperanza struggles with the embarrassment of poverty: "You live there? The way she [aunt] said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there." Another important symbol in the book are the trappings of womanhood—shoes, makeup, black clothes—that fascinate and intimidate the adolescent Esperanza, who carefully observes the other women in her community. Although at times these signs of womanhood leave Esperanza feeling betrayed, in "Beautiful & Cruel," she sees them as potential for power. "In the movies there is always one with red red lips who is beautiful and cruel. She is the one who drives the men crazy and laughs them all away. Her power is her own. She will not give it away."

Tone
Cisneros's writing is often compared to music for its poetic, lyrical quality. The House on Mango Street has a strong aural character, and the author clearly has an interest in sound that comes through in much of her poetry. Esperanza speaks in a sing-song voice, with the repetitive quality of a nursery rhyme. Cisneros's tone is at once youthful and lighthearted, but displays a tragic or menacing tone at times. Cisneros once commented, "I wanted stories like poems, compact and lyrical and ending with reverberation." In her more recent works, Cisneros has outgrown the girlish voice of Esperanza and takes on more mature themes while retaining this distinctive lyrical quality in her writing.

Social Concerns

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The House on Mango Street, which appeared in 1984, is a linked collection of forty-four short tales that evokes the circumstances and conditions of a Hispanic- American ghetto in Chicago as seen through the eyes of Esperanza Cordero, a fictionalized adolescent girl coming of age. These concise and poetic tales also offer snapshots of the roles of women in this society by uncovering the dual forces that pull Esperanza. On the one hand, she wants to stay rooted in her cultural traditions, but on the other, she is compelled to pursue a better way of life outside the barrio.

Sandra Cisneros plays on her own Mexican American heritage throughout her work, and The House on Mango Street in particular reflects the experience of Mexicans in the United States. In the mid-nineteenth century, Mexico ceded its northern territories (present-day California, Arizona, and New Mexico) to the United States at the end of the Mexican War, and Mexican landowners lost many of their rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. From about 1900 to 1920, immigrants from Mexico were actively recruited into the United States as low-cost labor for railroad, mining, and other industries, especially throughout the southwestern United States. Mexican immigration was widespread and unregulated through the 1920s, when immigration from Mexico and some other countries hit its peak. Between World War I and World War II, however, Mexican immigration came to a halt due in part to the pressures of the Great Depression, and Mexican Americans faced repatriation, poverty, and rampant discrimination.

Despite their contribution and service to the U.S. Army during World War II and their push for civil rights throughout the sixties and seventies, Mexican Americans continued to face discrimination. For example, many Mexican Americans were treated like second-class citizens. And throughout the fifties and sixties, despite their eagerness to integrate more fully into American society, Mexican Americans were still treated as "outsiders" by mainstream American culture. By 1983, when The House on Mango Street was published, stringent U.S. immigration laws had long limited the number of Mexicans allowed to immigrate to the United States. And yet, those who had immigrated legally or been born in America still experienced stereotyping and biases in American culture at large. In "Those Who Don't," Cisneros evokes the stereotyping of Mexican Americans: "Those who don't The House on Mango Street 169 know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we're dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives."

Because of the discrimination often leveled at Spanish-speaking populations by English-speaking Americans, many Mexican Americans choose to resist speaking Spanish except among family within the privacy of their homes. Cisneros, for example, remembers that she only spoke Spanish with her father at home, while otherwise being fully integrated within the mainstream American educational system. On the other hand, other Mexican Americans, particularly those of the older generations who retained nostalgia for their mother country, never relinquished the use of Spanish as their primary tongue. In The House on Mango Street, for example, Mamacita consciously refused to speak English because for her it represented a blatant rejection of her past and her identity, and she limited her English vocabulary to "He not here," "No speak English," and "Holy smokes." Esperanza's father remembers eating nothing but "hamandeggs" when he first arrived in the United States because it was the only English phrase he knew. In the United States today, there is a renewed interest among the younger generation of Mexican Americans to learn and fully appreciate the Spanish language.

The largest numbers of Mexican Americans in the United States are concentrated in southern California, Texas, and New York City. As one of the largest cities in the United States, Chicago historically has also attracted immigrants from around the world, including those from Mexico. Cisneros and her mother were born in the United States, as are many of the characters in The House on Mango Street, though they retain strong ties with their Mexican heritage and are integrated into the Mexican American communities throughout the country. These groups are referred to as "Mexican Americans," "Mexicanos," "Chicanos," and sometimes by the more general terms "Hispanics" or "Latinos." These terms collectively describe people from those cultures colonized by Spain from the fifteenth century to the present, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and many other countries. The population of Hispanics in the United States continues to swell, and by some estimates, they will make up about thirteen percent of the nation's population by the early years of the twenty-first century.

Historically, Mexican American men and women have suffered negative stereotyping and prejudices that prevented them from securing desirable jobs and being upwardly mobile within the society. Therefore, many remain concentrated in low-income neighborhoods like the one portrayed in The House on Mango Street. Poverty is a reality faced by many Mexican American populations living in the United States. In The House on Mango Street, the theme of poverty pervades the stories. In "Alicia Who Sees Mice," for example, the mice are a symbol of poverty. Alicia, who stays up late studying because she "doesn't want to spend her whole life in a factory or behind a rolling pin," sees the mice scurrying around after dark, a symbol of her circumstances in the neighborhood. In The House on Mango Street, the source of Esperanza's embarrassment about her house and her circumstances derives from the poverty that many Mexican Americans face. In "Bums in the Attic," the economic disparity between "people who live on hills" and those who live in the barrio is clear.

The role of women within the history of the Hispanic community is significant. Although Cisneros portrays some Mexican- American women as trapped within a cycle of socialization in The House on Mango Street and other works, she noted in a 1992 interview in Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World, "I have to say that the traditional role is kind of a myth. The traditional Mexican woman is a fierce woman. There's a lot of victimization but we are also fierce. We are very fierce."

Glossary of Spanish Terms

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Terms found in The House on Mango Street and in these eNotes:

A las Mujeres (dedication)— To the women

abuelito—affectionate term for grandfather (abuelo)

Ay, Caray!—Good heavens!

barrios—neighborhoods

bracero—hired hands, temporary immigrant workers

brazer—see bracero above

chanclas—old shoes; good for nothing

Chicano—Mexican-American

comadres—female friend, neighbor

cuando—when El Movimiento and La Causa—The Movement or The Cause, referring to the Chicano Movement of the 1960s

Esperanza— hope, expectation

Esta muerto—He is dead.

frijoles—kidney beans

La Revista Chicano-Riquena—The Chicano-Puerto Rican Review

los espiritus—the spirits, ghosts

machismo—male chauvinism

Mamacita—little mama

Mamasota—big mama

merengue—meringue; weak person; type of dance

mojado—“wetbacks”—illegal immigrant workers

tembleque—variation of temblar, which means to tremble, shake, quiver; by adding “que” to the end, Rachel makes it the name of a dance, like merengue

Literary Precedents

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Cisneros wrote the vignettes in The House on Mango Street while struggling with her identity as an author at the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop in the 1970s. She was influenced by Russian-born novelist and poet Vladimir Nabokov's memoirs as well as by her own experiences as a child in the Chicago barrio. This engaging book has brought the author critical acclaim and a 1985 Before Columbus American Book Award. The work also has been highly lauded for its impressionistic, poetic style and powerful imagery. Though Cisneros was a young writer and her work was not plentiful at the time she penned the book, The House on Mango Street established her as a significant figure in American literature. Her work has already been the subject of numerous scholarly studies and is often at the forefront of works that explore the role of Larinas in American society.

Adaptations

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The House on Mango Street was adapted as a sound recording entitled House on Mango Street; Woman Hollering Creek, published by Random House in 1992. It is read by Sandra Cisneros.

Bibliography

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Cisneros, Sandra. Interview by Reed Way Dasenbrock. In Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World, edited by Feroza Jussawalla and Dasenbrock. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1992. Cisneros discuses the genesis of her first novel, her use of voices, the effect that bilingualism has on her writing, her life in Texas, her parents’ lives, feminism, her favorite writers, and her novel in progress.

De Valdés, Maria Elena. “In Search of Identity in Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.” Canadian Review of American Studies 23, no. 1 (Fall, 1992): 55-72. De Valdés systematically charts the stages of Esperanza’s search for identity, which is complicated by her “double marginalization” in being both a Chicana and a woman. Reviews key chapters to suggest what ideas they contribute to major themes in the novel.

Ganz, Robin. “Sandra Cisneros: Border Crossings and Beyond.” Melus 19, no. 1 (Spring, 1994): 19-29. Ganz uses biographical information drawn from many sources to show how Cisneros’ stories successfully cross borders of gender and ethnicity.

McCracken, Ellen. “Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street: Community-Oriented Introspection and the Demystification of Patriarchal Violence.” In Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Readings, edited by Asunción Horno-Delgado et al. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. McCracken considers the novel from a feminist perspective, finding that it criticizes capitalistic and patriarchal social structures that oppress Latin women.

Olivares, Julián. “Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street and the Poetics of Space.” In Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature, edited by Maria Herrera-Sobek and Helena María Viramontes. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press, 1988. Olivares argues that the house motif represents Cisneros’ “house of story-telling”; the narrative charts a young writer coming into her own. Whereas her real house represents confinement, the imaginary one represents her ability to transcend the conditions of her life by writing stories about them.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 600

Sources
Bebe Moore Campbell, "Crossing Borders," New York Times Book Renew, May 26, 1991, p. 6.

Ciscernos, Sandra. “Do You Know Me?: I Wrote The House on Mango Street.” The Americas Review. Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring 1987, 77–79.

Sandra Cisneros, "Interview with Sandra Cisneros," in Reed Dasenbrock and Feroza Jussawalla, Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World, University Press of Mississippi, 1992.

Eduardo F. Ellas, "Sandra Cisneros," Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 122 Chicano Writers, Second Series edited by Francisco A Lomeli and Carl Shirley, Gale Research, 1992, pp 77-81.

Eduardo F Ehas, "The House on Mango Street," Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd edition, edited by Jim Kamp, Gale Research, 1994, p. 992.

Eduardo F. Ehas, "Sandra Cisneros," Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd edition, edited by Jim Kamp, Gale Research, 1994, pp. 200-02.

———. “Ghosts and Voices: Writing from Obsession.” The Americas Review. Vol. 15, No. 1. Spring 1987, 69–73.

Gomez Quinones, Juan. Chicano Politics: Reality and Promise 1940–1990. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990.

Klein, Dianne. “Coming of Age in Novels by Rudolfo Anaya and Sandra Cisneros.” The English Journal. Vol. 81, No. 5. September 1992, 21–26.

McCracken, Ellen. “Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street: Community-Oriented Introspection and the Demystification of Patriarchal Violence.” Breaking Boundaries: Latina Writing and Critical Readings. Ed. by Asuncion Horno-Delgado, et al. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989.

Meier, Matt S., and Feliciano Ribera. Mexican Americans/American Mexicans: From Conquistadores to Chicanos. New York: Hill & Wang, 1993.

———. “Notes to a Young Writer.” The Americas Review. Vol. 15, No. 1. Spring 1987, 74–76.

Novas, Himilce. Everything You Need to Know about Latino History. New York: Plume, 1994.

Rodriguez Aranda, Pilar E. “On the Solitary Fate of Being Mexican, Female, Wicked and Thirty-three: An Interview with Writer Sandra Cisneros.” The Americas Review. Vol. 18, No. 1. Spring 1990. 64-80.

Shorris, Earl. Latinos: A Biography of the People. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992.

For Further Study
Pilar E Rodriguez Aranda, interview in The Americas Review, Spring, 1990, pp 64-80. An interview with Cisneros which focuses on the writing of The House on Mango Street as well as on the general trend of Latinos "reinventing themselves" in relation to their culture.

Mana Elena de Valdes, "In Search of Identity in Cisneros's The House on Mango Street" in The Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 23*1 (Fall), 1992, pp. 55-72. Emphasizes the importance of Esperanza's "highly lyrical" narrative voice.

Erhnda Gonzalez-Berry and Tey Diana Rebolledo, "Growing Up Chicano. Tomas Rivera and Sandra Cisneros," in Re-vista Chicano-Riquena, Volume 13-34, 1985, pp. 109-19. Considers Cisneros' novel as an example of the growing up story which forms a general theme in Chicano literature.

Ellen McCracken, "Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street: Community-Oriented Introspection and the Demys-tification of Patriarchal Violence," in Breaking Boundaries: Lattna Writing and Critical Readings, edited by Anuncion Horno-Delgado, Ehana Ortega, Nina M. Scott, Nancy Saporta Stembach, University of Massachusetts Press, 1989, pp 62-71. Discusses The House on Mango Street as a "marginalized text" which contradicts the individualistic values of the male-dominated literary canon Julian Ohvares, "Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street, and the Poetics of Space," in Chicana Creativity and Criticism' Charting New Frontiers in American Literature, Arte Pubhco, 1988, pp 160-69.

Renato Rosaldo, "Fables of the Fallen Guy," in Criticism in the Borderlands' Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture and Ideology, edited by Hector Calderon and Jose David Sal-divar, Duke University Press, 1991, pp. 84-93. Situates The House on Mango Street and Cisneros in the context of earlier narratives of cultural authenticity written by Latino writers featuring male warrior-heroes.

Ramdn Saldivar, "The Dialectics of Subjectivity- Gender and Difference in Isabella Rios, Sandra Cisneros, and Cher-ne Moraga," in Chicano Narrative. The Dialectics of Difference, University of Wisconsin Press, 1990, pp. 171-99. Discusses the intersection of race, gender, and class in The House on Mango Street.

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