The House on Mango Street


In The House On Mango Street Esperanza reveals personal 
experiences through which the reader is able to determine what kind of 
person she is; her views on life, how she views herself, as well as 
how her poverty affects her view of life, her view of her future, and 
how her poverty currently affects her place in the world. The 
vignettes show different aspects of Esperanza's identity as it evolves 
and changes progressively throughout The House On Mango Street.

 Esperanza's identity, as divulged in the vignettes, is 
multifaceted. Her shyness is evident when she is around people who are 
unfamiliar to her. This is most likely due to the intimidation these 
people pose. For example, in the vignettes "The First Job" and "A Rice 
Sandwich" Esperanza is too shy to eat with her other co-workers and 
peers, as shown in the following quotation from "The First Job": "When 
lunch time came I was scared to eat alone in the company lunchroom". 
Another dominant feature in Esperanza's personality is the trust she 
has in others. This is one of Esperanza's weaknesses as an individual 
because it allows her to be gullible and vulnerable. In 'Cathy Queen 
of Cats' Esperanza's gullibility is obvious when Cathy tells Esperanza 
that "...[her] father will have to fly to France one day and find 
her...cousin...and inherit the family house. How do I know this is so? 
She told me so.". Another error in trusting others is that Esperanza 
is susceptible to betrayal. In 'Red Clowns' Esperanza is betrayed by 
Sally because Sally told Esperanza that the circus would be a fun 
experience, but instead she was raped. Esperanza blames Sally, the 
magazines, and the movies for lying to her about the circus. Esperanza 
is a very idealistic person. She assumes everything is pretty and fun, 
but when she finds out the acrimonious reality of life she becomes 
disappointed and deems herself stupid for not knowing better. 
Unbeknownst to Esperanza, her naiveté and inexperience is normal. For 
example, in 'Gil's Furniture Bought & Sold' Esperanza assumes that a 
music box is "...a pretty box with flowers painted on it, with a 
ballerina inside..." but when it's revealed to her that a music box is 
just "...a wood box that's old and got a big brass record in it with 
holes" she feels ashamed she did not know better. Despite her low 
self-esteem she still keeps hold of her dream of acquiring "A house 
all my own.".

 Esperanza's perception of herself does not mirror who she really 
is. She views herself as unattractive, unintelligent, insignificant 
and out of place. Such statements as, "...skinny necks and pointed 
elbows like not belong here but are here..." provide 
evidence. In 'Four Skinny Trees' Esperanza describes the four trees 
outside her house as how she sees herself; how she has not found her 
place in the world. Esperanza, like the trees, is trapped. While 
Esperanza is trapped on Mango Street, the trees are trapped in 
concrete. The quotation from "Four Skinny Trees" illustrates an 
optimism despite the limitations. "Four who grew despite concrete. 
Four who reach and do not forget to reach." The desire to leave Mango 
Street is the desire to lay new roots. There is an optimism which is 
inconsistent with Esperanza's negative self image.

 Esperanza's poverty acts as a physical obstacle from leaving Mango 
Street, but it does not prevent her from creating dreams and desires. 
On Mango Street Esperanza lives in a dilapidated, tiny house; a house 
with "bricks ...crumbling in places..." "Everybody has to share a 
bedroom..." From this poverty was born Esperanza's dream. "I knew 
then I had to have a house. A real house." Although her dream is to 
live in a house "with trees around it, a great big yard, and grass 
growing without a fence," Esperanza does not plan to abandon those 
who cannot leave Mango Street. "They will not know I have gone away to 
come back. For the ones I left behind." Esperanza maintains a 
commitment to her roots on Mango Street.

 At the outset of The House on Mango Street, Esperanza is presented 
as a shy girl with low self esteem. As the book progresses she 
appears to become increasingly strong, and clear about her destiny. 
Her optimism prevails. 


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