The House on Mango Street Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


The House on Mango Street: Theme Analysis

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Baptism and Rebirth/Christening: The Roman Catholic sacrament of baptism appears at several points in the novel-most notably in the baptismal celebration in the church basement in "Chanclas," the setting in which Esperanza dances and thus begins her journey toward adulthood. And as noted above in the Analysis section, Cisneros' choice of the Rev. Charles Kingsley's The Waterbabies as the text that Esperanza reads to Aunt Lupe may also be meant to evoke baptismal overtones. While The House on Mango Street is not what could be conventionally called a "religious" novel, it is certainly a sacramental novel, in which the ordinary elements of life-houses, feet, next door neighbors-become visible signs of invisible, ultimately spiritual, realities. Baptism's sacramental emphasis on names serves Cisneros' themes well.
The Power of Narrative: Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cisneros' novel, as a novel, has much to teach its readers about the power of story. Author Joan Didion has famously declared, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live," and no doubt Esperanza-and Cisneros-would agree. The difference, of course, is that Cisneros as a novelist already knows the truth of Didion's statement. Esperanza must learn its truth over the course of the novel. And many characters teach it to her, most notably Ruthie, the former author of children's fiction. She still is writing poems when we meet her, but these poems cannot free her because, sadly, Ruthie let her opportunity for freedom go, and continues to let it go each time she allows her husband back into her home and thus back into her life (and, significantly, "home" is practically code for "life" in Cisneros' novel). Aunt Lupe encourages Esperanza to continue her writing because it will free her. The three Sisters near the end of the book also teach Esperanza about the power of narrative-appropriately enough, because they are symbolic of the Fates, who, according to ancient mythology, literally "weave" the story of an individual's life, from beginning to conclusion. When the book ends-revealing, as it does, that the text itself is the product of Esperanza's ability to tell life as a story; that is, as an ordered narrative that reveals truth-Esperanza has learned that story-telling gives freedom, both to the storyteller and to her subjects. Thus, this theme in The House on Mango Street teaches us that in order to find home-to find ourselves-to find life. we must tell our stories, and the stories of others.
Interconnectedness : Related to the previous theme, readers of Cisneros' novel discover that we must tell our stories in the context of a larger story. Time and again, Esperanza introduces us to the rich variety of characters-some comical, some tragic, some hopeful, some despondent, some enigmatic-who inhabit the Mango Street neighborhood. In telling their stories, Esperanza demonstrates how these diverse individuals are nevertheless connected to and dependent upon each other-consider the sad case of Angel Vargas, for example. And telling the story of the community as a whole fights the tendency of the dominant members of the society to dismiss and dehumanize the society's minority members. In this sense, the urgency of storytelling and the power of narrative take on an even greater urgency. Storytelling is no luxury; it is an act of survival, and an affirmation of interdependence. As Esperanza insists in "Geraldo No Last Name," people really do matter.

 The House on Mango Street Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


 The House on Mango Street Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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