The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: The Family of Little Feet

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Summary
Esperanza tells a story in which she describes the feet found in a certain family, apparently not her own. This story, however, segues into an episode that happened to Esperanza herself. The mother in this family gave to Esperanza and her friends a bag of women's shoes: "magic high heels." As the girls proudly and happily walk around the neighborhood in these women's shoes, a "bum man" who is drunk promises Rachel a dollar if she will kiss him. The girls run away, and take off the shoes, telling themselves they are "tired of being beautiful." Eventually, Rachel and Lucy's mother throws the shoes away, and "no one complains."
 
Analysis
The beginning of Esperanza's narration in this vignette has a fairy-tale quality about it: "There was a family. All were little." This section thus anticipates the closing portions of the novel, in which a more mature Esperanza begins to learn about the power of narrative and story (see "Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes"). The fact that Esperanza discusses this family in these terms, and not in terms of "so-and-so down the street," for example, shows that even now she is discovering and experimenting with story's ability to liberate. The references to Cinderella and "magic high heels," however, continues the fairy tale motif as the girls begin parading down the street in the new (old) shoes. Thus, the fairy tale reinforces the fact that Esperanza and her friends still have a child's outlook on life. The menacing sexual overtones of the "bum man's" remarks to them go completely unnoticed-except, of course, by readers-until Lucy pulls Rachel away and the girls begin to run. The fact that "no one complains" when Lucy and Rachel's mother later throws the shoes away demonstrates that the girls have had their first real encounter with the adult world awaiting them, and they are not yet ready to enter it. Eventually, however, as the novel progresses, they will have no choice. This vignette, therefore, is key in "setting the stage" for what is to come, because of the ways in which it links the symbol of feet; the threatening potential of the adult world, especially its sexual aspects; and the theme of the power of narrative. The girls are still telling themselves a "fairy tale" about life, a narrative they will increasingly be unable to sustain.

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