The House on the Mango Street: Character Analysis
“You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them and sometimes they come like Nenny” (Cisneros, 1984). Esperanza is not happy with the fact that Nenny is too young to be her best friend and she does not have any friends. She keeps her hope alive that one day she will have a best friend of her own, someone she can share everything with. Moving around and about is not an easy thing especially for kids. This is the world that Esperanza is introduced to in the “House on the Mango Tree.” This is a short story by Cisneros that follows the life of a young lady, Esperanza as she lives in the house on the mango street for a year. It is in this house that she gets to mature up, physically, emotionally, as well as sexually. It is a place where she gets to make friends and also learn how to express herself. The purpose of this paper is to analyze Esperanza as a character in this short story
When Esperanza and her family moves into the house on the mango street, she is not delighted as she thought she would be, moving to their own house. The house does not quite fit the picture she had in mind regarding their first home. It is small and in one of those neighborhoods that are regarded as not so safe. She is disappointed because this is not one of those houses you can point out to people and tell them where you live. Instead of having a house with at least three bathrooms, they end up living in a place with only one bathroom and one bedroom (Cisneros, 1984). This motivates Esperanza to promise herself that she will have her own house, a real one where one can have some privacy.
Esperanza does not have a best friend, or any friend for that matter. Her friend is Nenny, her little sister who is too young to be a best friend. She longs to get someone who she can share anything with. She is delighted to meet Cathy, Lucy, and Rachel. Cathy however bolts when Esperanza decides to make friends with Lucy and Rachel, people who she belies they are dirty and not worthy associating with (Cisneros, 1984). The girls have fun riding the bicycle they purchased. They also get to meet Marin, a lady who is older than them, and who introduces them to boys and to stories regarding boys. Marin does not fear guys. Esperanza chooses to disregard stories by Marin’s uncle and auntie that she is trouble. She likes Marin way too much to believe so. She learns a lot from her, from how to talk to boys, how to make boys like you, among others. She also gets to learn lots of stories in the neighborhood from Marin.
Esperanza introduces to us her neighborhood and the people to be found in it. This gives us a picture of who her neighbors are and what they are like. The description of the neighborhood is so vivid that one can imagine the kind of a neighborhood it was just by reading the description. She introduces us to Cathy, Lou, Darius, Alicia-a lady who is afraid of mice and her father-among others.
In the first part of the story, Esperanza describes the kids in the neighborhood. However, as she matures up, this changes. She starts learning how to be a lady and not a child. Esperanza and the three other girls learn how to walk in heels and how to cross or even crisscross your legs. Rachel teachers her how to do this and she is happy about it all. When she manages the art of walking around with the heels, she is very pleased when she gets to see men look at her as they walk all over the community. “We must be Christmas,” she muses (Cisneros, 1984).
Esperanza is not so excited about their sorry state. She wishes they were richer and had nice things like other kids. She wants to stay in school and take her lunch in school just like the rich kids. She is so ashamed of her family and her house when sister superior gets her to stand on a box of books and point out which of the ugly houses belong to her family. She does not like to identify with poverty, she wishes she did not have to. During her cousin’s baptism, she refuses to dance just because her mother failed to bring her new shoes. Even though she is wearing new clothes, she still feels like her feet are so ugly. So while everyone is dancing and making merry, she just sulks away until her uncle manages to convince her to dance. As she dances, she feels proud when people admire her dancing skills.
Gracefully, Esperanza transitions from childhood to adulthood. She develops hips and she is quite happy to have them. She also gets a job, her first one where she just has to match pictures with their negatives. On her very first day, an old man forces her to kiss him claiming that it is his birthday (Cisneros, 1984). Growing up is always accompanied by responsibilities. Apart from getting a job, Esperanza has to break the news of the demise of her grandpa to the other kids since she is the eldest. She has to witness her strong, tough father break down before her and even try to offer him comfort (Cisneros, 1984). The transition brings her closer to the adults in her life. She writes poems and reads them out to her aunt Lupe, who encourages her to keep on writing. When the aunt dies, Esperanza feels bad that they imitated her. They did this while they did not know that she was almost dying. The regret and the guilt shows that she is developing not just physically but also emotionally. She understands the feelings of other people. She knows what it is like to be sick and helpless.
Growing up has its own challenges, Esperanza experiences this full too well. She befriends Sally, a lady who is more mature than her when it comes to sexual matters. Sally has had her own experiences with men and boys. Sally has a very strict, religious father. Her father sees her beauty as nothing but trouble (Cisneros, 1984). She teaches Esperanza how to apply make-up and make herself look beautiful. Sally uses the men in a bid to get away from her tough dad. This does not sit well with Esperanza. Now more than ever, she wants to leave the house on the mango street. She longs to live in a place with no nosy neighbors and no one to judge you. She feels like Mango Street is not her home since she does not belong. She cannot be herself in this place, she cannot be free or be who she wants with all people judging and criticizing everything she does.
Even though Esperanza is still living in the house on the mango street, she is ready to leave. She is mentally and emotionally ready to leave. She wishes that she had a place where she could be proud of. Living in a big nice house in a nice neighborhood. She longs to live in a place where nobody cares about you or what you do. She wishes she can leave Mango Street and just be her, just love without having the whole world watching out for the next mistake she will make. So she writes; of her pain, her challenges and of her hopes for a better life-away from Mango Street.
Cisneros, S. (1984). The House on Mango Street. In X.J Kennedy and Gioia (Eds). The literature Collection: An E-text [VitalSource digital version] (p.117). Boston, M.A: Pearson Educational, Inc.