Sandra Cisneros Long Fiction Analysis - Essay

Sandra Cisneros Long Fiction Analysis

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

One of the dominant ideas behind much of Sandra Cisneros’s work is the importance of autobiography in predominantly fictional work. For example, Cisneros’s mother, a Latin American born in Chicago, wanted her daughter to be independent, but her brothers and her father (who was born in Mexico) felt she should be a traditional Mexican wife and mother. With the heavy-handedness displayed by her brothers in their attempts to control her, as well as their patriarchal expectations, Sandra often felt like she had “seven fathers” rather than just one. She weaves these personal feelings into her fiction, giving the heroine of The House on Mango Street, Esperanza, the same sense of isolation within her family and yet giving her a name (esperanza is Spanish for “hope”) that represents the cheerful optimism with which her family sticks together through good and bad times. Similarly, Cisneros’s father was frequently homesick for his native Mexico while still being loyal to his American wife. Consequently, the family, like the Reyes family in Cisneros’s later novel Caramelo, moved often, alternating between squalid Mexican towns and the barrios of American cities.

Cisneros disliked the impermanence and decrepitude of her childhood—so much so, in fact, that when she recasts her youth in her fiction, she fills the writing with descriptions of introverted and lonely lives as well as cultural displacement. The stories in the collection Woman Hollering Creek, and Other Stories, although varying widely in style, all draw on Cisneros’s heritage for their themes and metaphors. Often plotless, the stories tend to be impressionistic; “Tin Tan Tan” seems almost poetic in form and has internal rhyme. Other stories carry themes particular to Catholic or Latina life. “Little Miracles, Kept Promises,” with its description of a series of letters left at the shrine of La Virgen de Guadalupe, resonates with lines that suggest older forces at work—the shrine being not just the Virgin’s home place but also the temple of an Aztec goddess. Symbolically, the book is rich with metaphors. The “real” Woman Hollering Creek is a creek (described as named for the folk-legend figure “La Llorona,” or “The Weeping Woman”) where, according to local lore, a jilted mother drowned her child. In the story, the main character, Cleofilas, a woman whose violent husband forces her to live as a very traditional Mexican woman and who has few choices in life, is able to overcome her anguish by leaving her abusive husband and her stifling home. Cleofilas represents a destiny that Cisneros had sometimes feared would be her own. As a child, she could not understand why her...

(The entire section is 1105 words.)