Black, white, and orange illustration of Esperanza standing in front of a building or structure

The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros

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How would you describe Esperanza in part 1 of The House on Mango Street?

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Esperanza in part 1 of The House on Mango Street can be described as empathetic, determined, and resourceful. She is a young girl learning the ways of the world with keen senses and an astute mind, but her identity is also still in the process of forming because she is young.

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In the early part of the book, Esperanza gives the impression that her identity is still in the early stages of being formed. Somewhat inevitably, this has a noticeable effect on her storytelling technique, which like herself has yet to develop properly. Being so young, and having only just arrived in a new neighborhood, Esperanza is so unsure of herself and what she is that she's unable to connect the stories that she tells in the book's initial stages.

The lack of a developed self is key here. It is only later on in the story, once Esperanza eventually comes to know who she is, that she's finally able to gain the degree of objectivity and disinterest necessary to link her stories together. In other words, Esperanza is very far from being a writer in the early stages of the book.

As such, she initially stays within the relative comfort zone provided by her family life. This explains why Esperanza starts off by talking about her family. It also explains why it is only later on that Esperanza will reach out to the broader community and establish meaningful connections with the people who live in it. For now, she's still working on her identity, and needs to improve on her levels of self-awareness before she's finally able to venture outside into her neighborhood.

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The first thing we learn about Esperanza is that she is an impoverished family. She and her family dream of living in a luxurious house with lots of space, while their reality is living in a house on Mango street that has just one bedroom and one bathroom. It is therefore fair to describe Esperanza as someone who aspires to greater things.

The fact that she makes the effort to remind her parents that this home is only temporary, despite not believing it, tells us that Esperanza is an empathetic person who cares deeply about others' feelings.

Esperanza is, in many ways, a typical twelve-year-old girl. She is trying out girly things like makeup and high heels for the first time and realizes for the first time that she has the potential to be an object of desire for men. She also realizes that she doesn't want this kind of attention.

It quickly becomes apparent that Esperanza wants more from life than what she has been blessed with in her childhood. It is also evident that she has the determination and tenacity that will be required to make a success of her life. She will rise above her circumstances and live a life that is about more than raising children and surviving poverty.

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In the first part of the book, Esperanza is a work in progress, observing astutely the world she lives in as she tries to find her place in it.  She is a seeker, alert and observant, aware of the conditions with which the women in her life have to contend, and thoughtfully examining how these conditions relate to her own life.  Like any other girl her age, she experiments with makeup and high heel shoes, only to step back when she discovers how these embellishments accentuate her womanhood and attract male attention of the type for which she is not ready.  She also explores and appreciates the dynamics within her own family, and while she learns the value of the love in her own home, she also begins to feel the limitations imposed upon her by her environment.  Esperanza wants more than what life in the barrio offers her, and it appears that she possesses the courage and initiative to reach beyond the confines of her immediate neighborhood to achieve better things.

As the story progresses and Esperanza matures, she evidences a sense of empathy and responsibility "for the ones (she will leave) behind".  Even as she distances herself from her family and the barrio, she resolves not to forget them.  She is ambitious enough to rise above the self-perpetuating cycle which entraps women who have little education and nothing to look forward to other than raising numerous children alone in abject poverty.  Esperanza wants something better for her life, but, when she has achieved it, she will not "forget who or where (she comes) from", and will return to help those she left behind who do not have the strength to get out on their own.

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