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The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros

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What distinguishes Cathy in "The House on Mango Street"?

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Cathy has many distinguishing attributes.  The most evident is that she is an animal lover - she "has cats and cats and cats...her house is like cat heaven".  She also is somewhat stuck-up, a label she applies to a former friend named Alicia, who has been "stuck-up ever since she went to college...she used to like (Cathy) but now she doesn't".  Cathy doesn't see that she shares the same inclination towards snobbishness herself.

Cathy says that she is "the great great grand cousin of the queen of France".  She has a high opinion of herself, and a sense that she is better than others.  She is also bigotted and insensitive, as she demonstrates when she tells Esperanza that she will be moving away because "the neighborhood is getting bad".  Cathy speaks what is on her mind without a filter; she does not appear to be aware that her attitudes and words are directly belittling to Esperanza and her family, who are Hispanic and have just arrived in the immediate area, when she expresses her dismay that "people like (them) keep moving in".

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What is distinctive about Cathy in The House on Mango Street?

Esperanza and her family live on Mango Street and it is a poor neighborhood. Outsiders look at it as a kind of ghetto. Esperanza meets different people, some of whom share her desire to get out of the neighborhood and have better lives. By no coincidence, Esperanza's name means "hope" - the hope of a better life; but she notes it also means "sadness" in Spanish. So, Esperanza has a nostalgia for Mexico but an increasing desire to achieve some kind of "hope" and that means trying to fit in in America (Mango Street). She realizes she lives in a neighborhood populated largely by minorities and immigrants, so she develops a camaraderie for some of her neighbors but always with the underlying idea that to be happy, she would need to move to a better neighborhood. But she never feels superior to her neighbors. 

Whereas Esperanza is sympathetic to her neighbors and even friends with some, Cathy is elitist. She claims to have descended from royalty and she also claims that she will be leaving the neighborhood because she's too good for it. Cathy has something condescending to say about most everyone on Mango Street. At the end of the chapter, Esperanza adds that Cathy simply wants to move away from people like herself (Esperanza): 

In the meantime they'll just have to move a little farther north from Mango Street, a little farther away every time people like us keep moving in. 

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