What happens in The House on Mango Street?
In The House on Mango Street, the young Latina Esperanza lives with on Mango Street, which is in a predominantly Latino part of Chicago. She's embarrassed by her family's house and wants to leave her neighborhood, but later learns that Mango Street is part of her identity.
Esperanza, new to the street, makes friends Lucy, Rachel, Marin, and Alicia.
- Esperanza lives with her family, who include Aunt Lala, who works in a photo shop, and her Aunt Lupe, an invalid whose death weighs on Esperanza.
- Esperanza meets Rachel and Lucy's aunts, the Three Sisters, who tell her fortune. She realizes that her experiences in the barrio have shaped her identity and that it will always be with her, even if she leaves.
Summary of the Novel
The House on Mango Street is comprised of 44 short character sketches, or stories, called vignettes. They are narrated by Esperanza, who just moved with her family to Mango Street, in the barrio. Esperanza hates their house on Mango Street because it is not a “real” house, like the ones she’s seen on TV.
Esperanza, whose name means “hope,” soon meets Lucy and Rachel, who she likes because they, too, are poor. She also meets Marin, who is wise about “women things” but is always stuck inside babysitting her cousins. She discovers the fear that outsiders have of her neighborhood, the fear that keeps their neighborhood “brown.” She becomes friends with Alicia, who goes to college at night so she will not be stuck “behind a rolling pin” the rest of her life.
Lucy, Rachel, and Esperanza are given several pairs of old high-heeled shoes, which they put on and wear around the neighborhood. At first they feel beautiful and powerful, but soon they discover that the shoes are “dangerous.” At school, Esperanza is humiliated by the Sister Superior, who assumes Esperanza lives in the worst house in the neighborhood.
Esperanza’s Aunt Lala gets her a job at a photo store, where an old man gives her a lewd kiss. Esperanza feels bad because she and her friends, in a game, made fun of her invalid Aunt Lupe, who died shortly thereafter. Aunt Lupe had listened to Esperanza’s poems and encouraged Esperanza to write.
Later, Esperanza has her fortune told by Elenita, the “witch woman.” Elenita tells Esperanza that she will have “a home in the heart.” Esperanza, who wants a “real” house, is disappointed by this fortune. Meanwhile, Sire, a boy in the neighborhood, awakens Esperanza’s sexuality: She knows he is looking at her, and she dares to look back.
Esperanza, comparing herself to the elm trees in front of her house, says they are the only ones who understand her because they don’t belong on Mango Street either. Meanwhile, Mamacita, the woman who lives across the street, refuses to learn English, and so she never leaves her apartment. Rafaela, another neighbor, is also stuck in her apartment; her husband locks her up whenever he goes out.
Esperanza befriends Sally, who is sad because everyone seems to think that because she is beautiful, she is bad. Minerva, just a few years older than they, already has children and a husband who beats her. Minerva and Esperanza share their poems with each other.
Esperanza vows that someday she will have a beautiful house and offer the attic to passing bums because she knows “how it is to be without a house.” She also decides to wage a “quiet war” against traditional female roles, because she is not beautiful like Sally and Nenny.
Esperanza learns that her mother “could’ve been somebody,” but she didn’t finish school because she was ashamed of her clothes. Esperanza also learns that Sally’s father often beats her. When Esperanza tries to protect Sally from the boys who are making her kiss them, Sally and the boys tell Esperanza to go away. Esperanza wants to die because she can’t understand the game they’re playing. Later, while waiting for Sally, who had run off with a boy, Esperanza is raped. Soon...
(The entire section is 2,404 words.)