The House on Mango Street: More than a Story
In today’s world there are countless social problems. People are often treated as an inferior or as if they are less important for many different reasons. In The House on Mango Street, the author Sandra Cisneros addresses these problems. Throughout the story Cisneros does a thorough job explaining and showing how these issues affect the public. This novel is written through the eyes of a young girl, Esperanza, growing up in a poor neighborhood where the lifestyles of the lower class are revealed.
Cisneros points out that, in today’s society, the expectation of women and their treatment, discrimination based on poverty, and discrimination because of a person’s ethnicity are the major problems in society.
Sandra Cisneros often shows us how women are treated as subordinates in a patriarchal society. In society the way women are supposed to better themselves is by marrying. Often women marry at a young age which Cisneros condemns in The House on Mango Street by stating that her friend, Sally, should not have gotten married by saying:
Sally got married like we knew she would, young and not ready but married just the same. She met a marshmallow salesman at a school bazaar, and she married him in another state where its legal to get married before eighth grade. She has her husband and her house now, her pillowcases and her plates.
She says she is in love, but I think she did it to escape. (101)
This excerpt shows how Cisneros believes that she should not have gotten married at a young age when she says that Sally is young and not ready. The author also reinforces how women too often get married to escape. Esperanza tells us that after the women get married they are supposed to just stay at home and raise their children which they often end up doing alone. Besides womens roles, the way they are treated is an issue that is addressed in the novel. Esperanza tells us many stories where it is evident that women are treated as possessions and often have little or no say in the affairs of the family.
Too often it seems that in Esperanzas experiences women are beaten by their husbands or fathers. One such example of a beating is when Sally explains to Esperanza why she often has so many bruises. He never hits me hard (92), is how Sally tells Esperanza that her father often beats her.
During many instances in The House on Mango Street people are treated according to their wealth. People often look down upon Esperanza and her peers with no reason except that they live differently because they have less money. During one part of the story Esperanza talks about strangers by saying:
Those who dont know any better come into our neighborhood scared.
They think were dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake. (28)
Cisneros shows how people often have misconceptions about people who are different from them and are often too quick to judge. This idea is shown again when Esperanza is talking to a nun and the nun asks,
Where do you live? She asked.
There, I said pointing up to the third floor.
You live there?
There. I had to look to where she pointed- the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldnt fall out. You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded.
People had a tendency, as shown in this passage, to discriminate without thinking. Unfortunately this behavior caused suffering and humiliation to people in a similar situation to Esperanzas.
Race and ethnicity are two things that peoples discrimination is based upon. The thoughts of the characters in the story show that Hispanics are treated worse simply because they are Hispanic. One example of this thought process is when Hispanics like Esperanza and her family are moving into Mango Street and Cathy says, The neighborhood is getting bad (13). Right after this Esperanza states, In the meantime theyll just have to move a little farther north .