The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: No Speak English

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Summary
Across the street, Mamacita lives with her grown son and his baby boy. She never leaves the house, and Esperanza thinks she is afraid to because she speaks only eight words of English. She pines away inside the house for her real home. When she asks her son, in Spanish, when they will be going home, her son replies, in English, that they are home. He urges her to speak English. She refuses-except to order her grandson, "No speak English!"
 
Analysis
Appropriately, for a novel that concerns itself with the power of narrative, this vignette takes up the power of language itself. Spanish is, clearly, more than a mere means of communication for Mamacita (significantly, the character is not given a proper name, but rather is called only by the Spanish diminutive, affectionate name for "mother"-this is her identity; contrast "Geraldo No Last Name," who has no surname and thus no identity, until Esperanza gives him one in her narrative). Spanish is, as Esperanza correctly discerns, Mamacita's "only road out to that country," that true home, that "real house" (see "The House on Mango Street") for which Esperanza herself longs. In this respect, the woman and the girl are kindred souls-although Mamacita mirrors Esperanza's great-grandmother (see "My Name"), who came from another country to America and was unable to adapt, who stayed in her home the rest of her days, and, as we have learned, Esperanza is determined not to share that fate. Esperanza will not be diminished (and readers should note the way Cisneros draws their attention to the irony of "little mother"'s name, given Mamacita's physical size-although she is a large woman, her homesickness makes her small). Readers can, as Esperanza seems to, have some measure of sympathy for Mamacita; but, given the context of the novel, they should also, as does Esperanza, realize that, rightly or wrongly, "No Speak English" is not a viable method for growth. The situation raises important questions of how the majority members of a society relate to minority members; it touches on issues of how the majority should and must learn to respect the cultural differences of those minority members. But such questions and issues are, in the end, beyond the scope of Esperanza's concern at this point. We have just seen, in the previous vignette ("Sire"), that Esperanza is desperately ready to grow-and Mamacita emerges as a negative role model, the kind of woman Esperanza does not want to become.

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