House On Mango StreetAs a young girl, Esperanza is a young girl who looks at life from experience ofliving in poverty, where many do not question their experience. She is a shy,but very bright girl. She dreams of the perfect home, with beautiful flowers anda room for everyone.
When she moves to the house of Mango Street, reality is sodifferent than the dream. In this story, hope (Esperanza) sustains tragedy. Thehouse she dreamed of was another on. It was one of her own. One where she didnot have to share a bedroom with everyone. That included her mother, father andtwo siblings.
The run down tiny house has “bricks crumbling inplaces”. The one she dreamed of had a great big yard, trees and ‘grassgrowing without a fence’. She did not want to abandon where she came from, butshe knew she wanted to be free of everything that life on Mango Street brought. “They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I have leftbehind”. She is committed to her roots on Mango Street.
We witnessEsperanza blossoming from a innocent, shy girl to one who witnesses much, butall of this makes her strong and clear about her desires for her life. What shesees is the male domination (machismo), violence and rape. The violence in thehome was ordinary to those that lived there and Esperanza knew this. It didn’tmake Sally stronger. Sally is abused by her father “He never hit mehard”, as her mom tends to her wounds. Sally eventually leaves home andgets married at a young age.
She ends being abused, instead by the fist, by mindcontrol. Her new husband treats her like a prisoner in her home. “She sitsat become afraid to go outside”. The leave home, she would need permission. She evolves from a victim of child abuse to a slave-like wife. Esperanza seesthis despair throughout her story.
In “My Name, “She looked out thewindow her whole life, they way so many women sit, with their sadness on anelbow”. Abuse to Rafaela, again subtle because she does not go out, in fearof husband. Poverty on Loomis, Keeler and Paulina; poverty is a way of life. Theimpact is for all generations, the parents who cannot get out, the children thatsee it and the little ones who cannot know any better. The opportunities arelimited in the barrio.
Esperanza was embarrassed when she pointed to her house”there”. “There?”, as if there was no place for a girl tolive. But survival is instinctive and there is a certain amount of barrio pride”Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. Theythink we are dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. Theyare stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake.
” The victim ofbeing called a “rice sandwich”. Hurt by the sister superior as shepoints to a row of ugly houses reminding Esperanza of the sin of being poor. Machismo is something seen in the domestic situations throughout Hispanicpeople. The violence, the subservience that is expected and the men believe thewomen are second and are second class citizens. There role is to be domestichousekeepers and to birth children.
Alicia makes tortillas for her father. WhenEsperanza is raped, she is again taught of the power of (some) men. Butthroughout her growth Esperanza gets very clear that she will not live as thosearound she sees. She wants independence. She knew getting out would help herachieve her dreams.
She was motivated but everything she experiences. She learnsabout trust when Sally told her the circus would be fun, only to be raped. Hershyness (eating alone in the company lunchroom), and about being gullible. InCathy Queen of hearts, Cathy says, “father will have to fly France and findher cousin and inherit the house. ” She believes that everything will begood. But she feels incredibly stupid for not for not knowing better.
But shedoes learn. When she learns that the box, is a music box. She is ashamed for notknowing. Despite all this, she knows enough to know that a better life is thelive she will create. She sees herself as scrawny and unattractive.
“Skinnynecks and pointed elbows like mine. . . don’t belong here, but are here”.
Butthe metaphor for the tress, she will grow despite the concrete and ‘will notforget to reach’. She is a determined young woman with ‘esparenze’ and she willlay new roots and you are convinced she will not only make it, but will returnfor the others. Cisneros allows us to see why women need to dream and create thegood reality that they are capable of living. She addresses oppression, familyand religious roles and is clear about the 2nd class status of women, but sheknows there is more out there.
I was blessed, having been raised in afinancially rich and very sheltered environment. I work in a city where povertyis present, today and witness families living together, girls and boyssupporting their parents, sending money south of the border, all to survive. Noone complains, but there is clearly a vicious cycle, as the family is soimportant, many young one aspire to have families and do. They do no realize howexpensive life is until they are older, and then their little ones are placed inthe same cycle.
I did experience and old fashioned father who was verydominating and did not treat girls very respectfully. It was very difficult togain his respect and approval, if that is possible. I learned that men make thedecisions and women are not to doubt the man. We were never allowed to say no,or ask why.
There was must physical abuse, as a way to control us. As an adult Iam sensitive to the fact that my father knew no better, even thought he scarsare still there. This story, as I read it again and again, made me feel thatmany girls are dreamers and have their innocence shattered by the reality oflife. Whether rich or poor, belief systems can be shattered, but not hopes.