Esperanza faces the death and illness of relatives and the sudden death of strangers who dance with friends. She learns about life as she grows up and leaves the ease of girlhood behind. She learns about the difficulties of life, and that “home is in the heart” (Cisneros 64), not inside the four walls of the house that disappoints her whole family. As she learns about life, she learns that people listen to her words and they give her power, and she learns to be a writer. Late in the book she experiments with her writing, “I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much” (Cisneros 110).
Esperanza epitomizes the hopes and fears of many young multi-cultural kids growing up in the inner cities and barrios all over the country. She wants more for herself than her family has, and she wants to grow up to make something of herself. Somehow, she recognizes that writing can be the door to a new life, but more than that, she understands that she loves to write, and she is somehow supposed to share her experiences to help others better themselves. She can be an inspiration to others as she becomes an inspiration to herself and her friends and loved ones.
She knows she will come back one day and help others get away from Mango Street so they can make better lives for themselves. By the end of the novel, Esperanza may not be much older, but she has a purpose in life. She has grown up enough to know that writing is more than a tool; it is her ticket to a new life. Critic Eysturoy continues, “It is through the process of telling her stories that Esperanza discovers the power of her own creativity, that ‘language is a way of becoming,’ a way of imagining herself beyond the confinements of the status quo, a way of imagining a different ending to her own […
] story” (Eysturoy 90). Esperanza’s journey of self-definition is not only a journey inside herself, and that is one of the great things about this theme. Esperanza watches her neighborhood with a keen eye for detail and discovery, and she learns about what to do and what not to do as she watches the lives of those around her unfold, and sometimes end. She learns not to marry young (like Sally), not to get pregnant, to go to school, and to always strive for something better, such as that “house on the hill” that she hopes to have someday.
Esperanza comes of age in this novel, but she also subtly understands the poverty and oppression of her neighborhood can be overcome by hard work and by education. Esperanza is smart, but she is also driven, and that is a necessary ingredient for success. She learns this too as she observes the people around her. Even her mother tells her “I could have been somebody” (Cisneros 90), and Esperanza learns that sometimes people do not have the strength to go after their dreams.
She does, and she comes to understand her own strength as the novel progresses. She learns about herself because she is open to the experiences of the people around her, and open to change. In conclusion, this story is a rich look at a young woman growing up in a typical American barrio. She has the hopes and dreams of most young girls, and the worries and the displeasures, too. She learns about herself and her world as the novel progresses, and discovers not only herself, but also all the possibilities that are open to her in life.
She learns about her own inner strength and resolve, and knows that whatever she does in life, she can never shake off the roots of Mango Street.
Works Cited Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1991. Eysturoy, Annie O. Daughters of Self-Creation: The Contemporary Chicana Novel. 1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996. Kevane, Bridget. Latino Literature in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.