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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What are examples of repetition in chapter 4 of The House on Mango Street?

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In the fourth vignette, entitled "My Name," Esperanza reveals her feelings about her name, its origin, its meaning, and how society views it. At the beginning of the vignette, Esperanza repeats the word "means" to elaborate on the various definitions she associates with her name. She tells the reader that in English her name means "hope," but in Spanish, it means "too many letters." Esperanza also mentions that she feels her name means "sadness" and "waiting." There is also repetition of the word "horse" throughout the vignette as Esperanza describes her great-grandmother as a wild horse of a woman who was born in the Chinese year of the horse. The image of a horse conjures a powerful vision of a strong, confident, free being, which resembles Esperanza's great-grandmother. The word "sadness" is also repeated throughout the vignette and gives the reader insight into Esperanza's attitude and perceptions. Esperanza initially mentions that her name means sadness before saying that she doesn't want to be like her unhappy great-grandmother, who stares aimlessly out of her window. The use of repetition emphasizes Esperanza's feelings regarding her name and identity throughout the vignette.

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In Chapter 4, "My Name," Esperanza repeats the word "means" in the first paragraph to refer to her name. She provides both the Spanish and English meanings of the name to convey that she has different experiences in the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking cultures. She translates her name into English as "hope" but feels it has too many letters in Spanish, suggesting that she feels a bit distanced from her Spanish-speaking roots and feels that her name is too awkward in Spanish. Esperanza also repeats the phrase "it is" or "it was" about her name, emphasizing its many meanings.

Later, in describing her great-grandmother, Esperanza repeats the words "wild" and "horse," suggesting that she thinks of her great-grandmother as a wild woman who, like a horse, was reluctantly partially tamed by her husband. The name "Esperanza" is also repeated in the chapter to emphasize that the protagonist still believes in the promise of her name and hopes to live a different life than that of her great-grandmother.

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The House on Mango Street is not divided up by chapters but by vignettes. The fourth one is called "My Name," in which Esperanza explains how she feels about her Spanish name. She repeats different meanings of her name to show how deeply she dislikes it. Not only that, she seems to feel some frustration about it because her name means "hope" in English, but she believes that the Spanish meaning represents sadness and waiting for something better to come along in life that never does. For example, Esperanza repeats herself as follows:

"In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing" (10).

Esperanza uses the repetition of the word "name" and "it means," to highlight the importance of what the name means to her as opposed to what the different languages suggest. Hence, she does not like what her name represents because all she sees in the Spanish spelling is sadness and waiting, not hope. As a result, she tells the story of receiving her name from her great-grandmother who suffered under that name with both sadness and waiting as well.

"She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. . . I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window" (11).

Esperanza mentions sadness again coupled with the image of her great-grandmother leaning on her elbow and waiting for a better life to happen. This younger Esperanza, however, wants to be happy, make a life for herself, and not wait for someone or something to rescue her. 

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