Suggested Essay Topics
Part I: The House on Mango Street, Hairs, and Boys & Girls
1. Discuss Esperanza’s disappointment with the house on Mango Street. Why doesn’t she consider it “a real house”? What does the house represent for her?
2. Why is having a “real” house so important to Esperanza?
3. What kind of person emerges in these first three vignettes? What are Esperanza’s concerns?
Part II: My Name, Cathy Queen of Cats, and Our Good Day
1. Why does Esperanza want to change her name? Is it the name itself that she wants to change, or something else?
2. Discuss the difference between Cathy and the sisters Rachel and Lucy. Why does Esperanza choose to be friends with Rachel and Lucy instead of with Cathy?
Part III: Laughter, Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold, Meme Ortiz, and Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin
1. Esperanza says they only saw Louie’s other cousin once, “but it was important.” Why?
2. Why does Louie’s other cousin get arrested? What do you think he did wrong?
Part IV: Marin, Those Who Don’t, and There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do
1. Esperanza says that Marin always seems to be waiting. What is she waiting for?
2. Discuss the brief vignette “Those Who Don’t.” What does it suggest about stereotypes and prejudice?
3. The story of Rosa Vargas and her children raises many issues—about poverty, parental responsibility, neighborly responsibility, and respect . It also shows the disastrous consequences of a combination of negative social forces. Discuss.
Part V: Alicia Who Sees Mice, Darius & the Clouds, and And Some More
1. Discuss Alicia’s predicament. What is she trying to overcome and accomplish?
2. Discuss the significance of names and all the naming that takes place in “And Some More.” Why are names so important? What do they represent?
Part VI: The Family of Little Feet and A Rice Sandwich
1. Discuss what happens to the girls when they walk around in high heels. What “power” do they discover? Why do they get “tired of being beautiful” so quickly?
2. Discuss what happens to Esperanza in Sister Superior’s office. Why does Sister Superior assume that Esperanza lives in the worst part of the neighborhood? Why doesn’t Esperanza show Sister Superior where she really lives?
Part VII: Chanclas, Hips, and The First Job
1. Discuss Esperanza’s emotions that night at the baptism party. Why was she ashamed? What made her forget about her old shoes?
2. Consider what happens to Esperanza on her first day on the job. How did the Oriental man violate her trust? How do you think this event affects Esperanza?
Part VIII: Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark, Born Bad, and Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water
1. Aunt Lupe tells Esperanza that writing “will keep you free.” Consider this statement. What does Aunt Lupe mean? How can writing keep someone free?
2. What does Elenita mean by “a home in the heart”? Discuss the significance of this statement.
Part IX: Geraldo No Last Name, Edna’s Ruthie, The Earl of Tennessee, and Sire
1. Discuss the story of Geraldo. Why is his death so tragic? Why is Marin so upset by it?
2. Discuss what Esperanza is going through in “Sire.” Why is this “punk” so important to her? What does he awaken in her?
Part X: Four Skinny Trees and No Speak English
1. Discuss Esperanza’s relationship with the four skinny trees. Why are they so important to her? How do they serve as role models for her?
2. Discuss Mamacita’s predicament. Why won’t she learn English? Do you think she should?
Part XI: Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays and Sally
1. Discuss Rafaela’s situation. Why does she get locked inside? Why doesn’t she do anything about it?
2. Esperanza seems to admire and understand Sally. What does Esperanza admire?...
(The entire section is 1,009 words.)