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The House on Mango Street

by Sandra Cisneros

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Why does Rosa Vargas cry daily in The House on Mango Street?

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Rosa Vargas has been abandoned by her husband, and she "cries everyday for the man who left without even leaving a dollar for bologna or a note explaining how come".  She has been left with the children she apparently bore for him, kids which are "too many and too much...she is their mother and only one against so many".  Rosa Vargas' kids run wild because their mother cannot handle them; she is "tired all the time from buttoning and bottling and babying".  Having grown up with little guidance and no disciplining, the children behave atrociously, and "are without respect for all things living, including themselves".

Rosa Vargas' children run wild in the neighborhood, wreaking havoc, doing whatever they want.  The neighbors at first try to keep them in line, "but after a while (they) get tired of being worried about kids who aren't even (theirs)".  Besides, when the neighbors do try to make the children behave, or try to keep them from doing things that are dangerous, the children, never having learned to mind, do not listen.  Mr. Benny tries to get them to stop "playing chicken" on his roof, but they just spit on him in response. 

The people on Mango Street have pretty much given up trying to discipline Rosa Vargas' kids.  They don't pay attention when one of them chips a tooth on a parking meter or when another gets her head stuck between slats in a gate.  And, in the ultimate tragedy, "nobody look(s) up" when Angel Vargas "learn(s) to fly", falling from a high place and being crushed to death when he hits the earth.

Through the story of Rosa Vargas, the author addresses a number of themes which are central to her book.  Not the least is the plight of Hispanic women, who are so often in the situation of having to bear many children, only to be left to care for them alone when their husbands leave.  A second theme is the cycle of poverty in Hispanic culture.  The story gives the sense that the Vargas children, growing up without direction, are doomed to perpetuate the lifestyles which have entrapped their parents ("There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn't Know What to Do").

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