The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: Beautiful & Cruel

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Summary
Esperanza is regarded, by herself and by others in her family, as "an ugly daughter." Consequently, she sees herself as powerful, like women in movies who are beautiful and cruel. Although Esperanza is apparently not beautiful by superficial standards, she identifies with these women in the films: "Her power is her own. She will not give it away."
 
Analysis
Esperanza believes she is ugly, and that no man will ever come for her. She does not, however, seem overly worried about this fact; indeed, she seems to view it as liberating: "I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain" (that is, for marriage and its obligations, traditionally mostly for women). Here again, the specter of Esperanza's great-grandmother (see "My Name") haunts Esperanza-and, here, again, she rejects it. The vignette is an important articulation of Esperanza's choice never to yield her power to another. The "quiet war" Esperanza declares she has begun is a war for freedom, for independence, for self-actualization, for identity. It thus echoes the novel's overarching theme. Esperanza will forge her identity independent of her family's expectations, and independent of the world of men. Indeed, she will from now on be "one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate." These few words speak volumes about the power politics inherent in gender identity. In acting like a man, Esperanza is announcing her freedom in a way traditionally reserved only for men: the ability to reject submissive, serving behaviors (i.e., cleaning up after someone else). This vignette is also, therefore, important for understanding the gender politics of Cisneros' book.

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