The House on Mango Street Additional Summary

Sandra Cisneros


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The House on Mango Street is Cisneros’s best-known work. Though it is made up of stories and sketches, some of which have been published separately, the collection has the unity of a novella. Cisneros has described the book as a connected collection, “each story a little pearl. . . . the whole thing like a necklace.” In her own mind, Esperanza Cordero, the narrator, has one main problem: She wants to have a house of her own. As the story develops, the meaning of having a house of her own grows richer and more complex, until finally, she understands that she wants not only a literal house but also “a home in the heart.” Furthermore, her one problem connects with many other problems that are clearer to the reader than to Esperanza, especially problems related to the roles and treatment accorded women in her culture and the problems of being Mexican American in U.S. culture.

Esperanza is the older of two daughters and has two brothers. Her wish for a house grows out of the family desire that is realized when they buy the house on Mango Street. This turns out not to be the home of which they have dreamed, with a large yard and many bathrooms, but the house they can afford, in a neighborhood being transformed into a ghetto. Esperanza’s disappointment sparks her wish. She also realizes after moving to Mango Street that she does not want to live her life as do most women whom she knows. She is named after her great-grandmother, a woman who refused to marry: “Until my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off. Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier....

(The entire section is 657 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, speaks in an adolescent Chicana’s voice of coming-of-age in a poor Chicago neighborhood in the mid-twentieth century. Cisneros’ first book of fiction received immediate acclaim, becoming a widely studied text in schools and universities.

The novella consists of sketches, each exploring some aspect of the experiences of the narrator, Esperanza Cordero, after her family moves into a house of their own. These sketches are drawn from Cisneros’ own life; her family moved into a Puerto Rican neighborhood on Chicago’s north side during her twelfth year. Cisneros discovered this voice and subject in resistance against the pressure to conform to what she felt was, at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a “terrible East-coast pretentiousness.” She realized that growing up Chicana in Chicago set her apart from most other writers. Esperanza’s story also is one of resistance, especially against the expectations for women in her culture. She and her family have dreamed of having an even grander home, but she discovers strongly ambivalent feelings about home once they have one. On one hand, it is a place to be and to become. On the other, it is a sort of prison, especially for women.

In “The Family of Little Feet,” Esperanza and two girlfriends get high-heeled shoes and wander playfully into the neighborhood, imagining themselves adults. At first, when men notice them and women seem jealous, they enjoy the attention, but when a drunk demands a kiss from Esperanza in exchange for a dollar, she and her friends flee and get rid of the shoes. Every other specifically feminine artifact and feature becomes a potential trap: hips, cooking, dresses, physical beauty, and most of all houses. Repeatedly, wives and daughters are locked in houses, where they serve men.

Finally, Esperanza dreams of a house of her own, one that is not her husband’s or her father’s but hers. At the end of the novella, Esperanza begins the story again, revealing that her book has become her house on Mango Street, the home in her heart that her best female mentors have told her to find. By writing, she gets hold of it, and in this way she can have a home and still resist becoming a man’s property.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Esperanza Cordero and her family had not always lived on Mango Street. The family of six lived in a series of run-down apartments before finally buying a small house with crumbling brick. Esperanza is disappointed. It is not a real house, not the house she imagined they would someday live in. They say this house is only temporary, but Esperanza knows better.

Esperanza loves her family but resents having to look after her little sister, Nenny. She hopes someday to have a best friend to play with instead. She also wants a new name, because her Spanish name means “sadness” to her. She makes up Zeze the X. She meets Cathy, who gossips about the neighbors and says that her father wants to move because people like the Corderos keep moving in. Esperanza and Nenny meet Lucy and Rachel, newly arrived from Texas. They pool their savings to buy a bike for ten dollars and take turns riding it. They visit the black man’s junk store and hear his music box play. Esperanza knows that some people are afraid of her neighborhood and call them “Those Who Don’t.” She explains, “They think we’re dangerous.” She herself feels safe and secure in her neighborhood of brown-skinned people.

Esperanza’s friend Alicia, the college student, gets up one morning and sees a mouse behind the sink. Her father says there is no mouse. Alicia is afraid of two things in life—her father and mice. She studies at night and, ever since her mother died, gets up with the “tortilla star” every morning to make the lunches for her brothers and sisters.

Esperanza passes the days out in the street playing jump rope with Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel and singing rhymes about their neighbors. One day, the woman in the family of little feet gives them some old high heels, and they wear them through the neighborhood. The grocery man says they are too young to be wearing such shoes, but they do not take them off until a whiskey bum offers Rachel a dollar for a kiss. Then they all run away and hide the shoes under a bushel basket on Lucy’s back porch.

Esperanza often thinks she does not fit in. She would like to eat in the school’s canteen with the kids who bring lunch instead of walking home for lunch, but the Mother Superior yells at her. She is also embarrassed about her rice sandwich. At her little cousin’s baptism, she hates wearing scuffed brown shoes with her pretty new dress, but her Uncle Nacho...

(The entire section is 990 words.)


(Novels for Students)

The House on Mango Street is the coming of age story of Esperanza Cordero, a preadolescent Mexican American girl (Chicana) living in...

(The entire section is 826 words.)