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The House on Mango Street, which appeared in 1983, is a linked collection of forty-four short tales that evoke the circumstances and conditions of a Hispanic American ghetto in Chicago. The narrative is seen through the eyes of Esperanza Cordero, an adolescent girl coming of age. These concise and poetic tales also offer snapshots of the roles of women in this society. They uncover the dual forces that pull Esperanza to stay rooted in her cultural traditions on the one hand, and those that compel her to pursue a better way of life outside the barrio on the other.
Throughout the book Sandra Cisneros explores themes of cultural tradition, gender roles, and coming of age in a binary society that struggles to hang onto its collective past while integrating itself into the American cultural landscape. Cisneros wrote the vignettes while struggling with her identity as an author at the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in the 1970s. She was influenced by Russian-bom novelist and poet Vladimir Nabokov’s memoirs and by her own experiences as a child in the Chicago barrio.
This engaging book has brought the author critical acclaim and a 1985 Before Columbus American Book Award. Specifically, it has been highly lauded for its impressionistic, poetic style and powerful imagery. Though Cisneros is a young writer and her work is not plentiful, The House on Mango Street establishes her as a major figure in American literature. Her work has already been the subject of numerous scholarly studies and is often at the fore- Sandra Cisneros 1983 V o I u m e 2 I 1 3 T h e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t front of works that explore the role of Latinas in American society.
IFIMIGTIM… The experiences of Esperanza, the adolescent protagonist of The House on Mango Street, closely resemble those of Sandra Cisneros’s childhood. The author was born to a Mexican father and a Mexican American mother in 1954 in Chicago, Illinois, the only daughter of seven children. The family, for whom money was always in short supply, frequently moved between the ghetto neighborhoods of Chicago and the areas of Mexico where her father’s family lived. Cisneros remembers that as a child she often felt a sense of displacement.
By 1966 her parents had saved enough money for a down payment on a run-down, two-story house in a decrepit Puerto Rican neighborhood on Chicago’s north side. There Cisneros spent much of her childhood. This house, as well as the colorful group of characters Cisneros observed around her in the barrio, served as inspiration for some of the stories in The House on Mango Street. The author once remarked, “Because we moved so much, and always in neighborhoods that appeared like France after World War 1I-empty lots and burned-out buildings-I retreated inside myself.
” Cisneros was an introspective child with few friends; her mother encouraged her to read and write at a young age, and made sure her daughter had her own library card. The author wrote poems and stories as a schoolgirl, but the impetus for her career as a creative writer came during her college years, when she was introduced to the works of Donald Justice, James Wright, and other writers who made Cisneros more aware of her cultural roots. Cisneros graduated from Loyola University in 1976 with a B. A. in English.
She began to pursue graduate studies in writing at the University of Iowa, and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing in 1978. Cisneros says that through high school and college, she did not perceive herself as being different from her fellow English majors. She spoke Spanish only at home with her father, but otherwise wrote and studied within the mainstream of American literature. At the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Cisneros found her true voice as an author. Compared with her more privileged, wealthier classmates from more stable environments, Cisneros’s cultural difference
Sandra Cisneros as a Chicana became clear. Though at first she imitated the style and tone of acclaimed American authors, Cisneros came to realize that her experience as a Hispanic woman differed from that of her classmates and offered an opportunity to develop her own voice. Cisneros once remarked, “Everyone seemed to have some communal knowledge which I did not have-My classmates were from the best schools in the country. They had been bred as fine hothouse flowers. I was a yellow weed among the city’s cracks.
” The author began to explore her past experiences, which served as the inspiration of many of her stories and distinguished her from her peers. Her master’s thesis, My Wicked Wicked Ways (Iowa, 1978, published as a book in 1987) is a collection of poems that begins to explore daily experiences, encounters, and observations in this new-found voice. Cisneros has held several fellowships that have allowed her to focus on her writing full-time. These awards have enabled her to travel to Europe and to other parts of the United States, including a stint in Austin, Texas, where she experienced another thriving community of Latin American culture.
She has also taught creative writing and worked with students at the Latino Youth Altemative High School in Chicago. N o v e I s f o r S t u d e n t s I 1 4 T h e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t The House on Mango Street is the coming of age story of Esperanza Cordero, a preadolescent Mexican American girl (Chicana) living in the contemporary United States. A marked departure from the traditional novel form, The House on Mango Street is a slim book consisting of forty-four vignettes, or literary sketches, narrated by Esperanza and ranging in length from two paragraphs to four pages.
In deceptively simple language, the novel recounts the complex experience of being young, poor, female, and Chicana in America. The novel opens with a description of the Cordero family’s house on Mango Street, the most recent in a long line of houses they have occupied. Esperanza is dissatisfied with the house, which is small and cramped, and doesn’t want to stay there. But Mango Street is her home now, and she sets out to try to understand it. Mango Street is populated by people with many different life stories, stories of hope and despair.
First there is Esperanza’s own family: her kind father who works two jobs and is absent most of the time; her mother, who can speak two languages and sing opera but never finished high school; her two brothers Carlos and Kiki; and her little sister Nenny. Of the neighborhood children Esperanza meets, there is Cathy, who shows her around Mango Street but moves out shortly thereafter because the neighborhood is “getting bad. ” Then there are Rachel and Lucy, sisters from Texas, who become Esperanza and Nenny’s best friends.
There is Meme, who has a dog with two names, one in Spanish and one in English, and Louie the boy from Puerto Rico whose cousin steals a Cadillac one day and gives all the children a ride. Then there are the teenage girls of Mango Street, whom Esperanza studies carefully for clues about becoming a woman. There is Marin from Puerto Rico, who sells Avon cosmetics and takes care of her younger cousins, but is waiting for a boyfriend to change her life. There is Alicia, who must take care of her father and siblings because her mother is dead, but is determined to keep going to college.
And there is Esperanza’s beautiful friend Sally, who marries in the eighth grade in order to get away from her father but is now forbidden by her husband to see her friends. Esperanza, Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel discover that acting sexy is more dangerous than liberating when a neighbor gives them four pairs of hand-me-down V o l u m e 2 high heels. They strut around the neighborhood acting like the older girls until a homeless man accosts them. After fleeing, the girls quickly take off the shoes with the intention of never wearing them again.
The grown women Esperanza comes across on Mango Street are less daring and hopeful than the teenage girls, but they have acquired the wisdom that comes with experience. They advise Esperanza not to give up her independence in order to become a girlfriend or wife. Her Aunt Lupe, who was once pretty and strong but is now dying, encourages Esperanza to write poetry. Her mother, who was once a good student, a “smart cookie,” regrets having dropped out of school. There are other women in the neighborhood who don’t fit into either category, like Edna’s Ruthie, a grownup who “likes to play.
” While the text implies that Ruthie is developmentally disabled, Esperanza perceives her as somebody who “sees lovely things everywhere. ” Through observing and interacting with her neighbors, Esperanza forms a connection to Mango Street which conflicts with her desire to leave. At the funeral for Rachel and Lucy’s baby sister she meets their three old aunts who read her palm and her mind: Esperanza. The one with marble hands called me aside. Esperanza. She held my face with her blueveined hands and looked and looked at me. A long silence. When you leave you must remember always to come back, she said.
What? When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. Then I didn’t know what to say. It was as if she could read my mind, as if she knew what I had wished for, and I felt ashamed for having made such a selfish wish. You must remember to come back. For the ones who cannot leave as easily as you. You will remember? She asked as if she was telling me. Yes, yes, I said a little confused.
The three sisters tell Esperanza that while she will go far in life she must remember to come back to Mango Street for the others who do not get as far. By the novel’s end Esperanza has realized that her writing is one way to maintain the connection to Mango Street without having to give up her own independence. She will tell the stories of the “ones who cannot out. ” I 1 5 Th e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t Alicia “Alicia Who Sees Mice” is a young woman burdened by taking care of her family while attending college in order to escape her way of life in the barrio.
She is only afraid of mice, which serve as a metaphor for her poverty. Cathy Cathy, “Queen of Cats,” as Esperanza calls her because of her motley collection of felines, is one of Esperanza’s neighborhood playmates. Cathy tells Esperanza that she and her family are leaving because the neighborhood into which Esperanza has just moved is going downhill. Carlos Cordero Carlos is Esperanza’s younger brother. The brothers have little interaction with Esperanza and Nenny outside of the structure of the household. her constraining neighborhood, and who, toward the end of the book, is compelled by her own inner strength to leave the barrio.
Nonetheless, Esperanza demonstrates empathy for those around her, particularly those who do not see beyond the confines of their situations: “One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away. Friends and neighbors will say, What happened to that Esperanza? Where did she go with all these books and paper? Why did she march so far away? They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out. ” In “Bums in the Attic,” Esperanza says, “One day I’ll own my own house, but I won’t forget who or where I came from.
” The tension between Esperanza’s emotional ties to this community and her desire to transcend it establish a sense of attraction and repulsion that characterize the work. Kiki Cordero Kiki, “with hair like fur,” is Esperanza’s younger brother. Esperanza Cordero “In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters,” says Esperanza Cordero. In a child-like voice, Esperanza records impressions of the world around her. Her perceptions range from humorous anecdotes pulled from life in the barrio to more dark references to crime and sexual provocation.
Through Esperanza’s eyes, the reader catches short yet vivid glimpses of the other characters, particularly the females in Esperanza’s neighborhood. In part, Esperanza finds her sense of self-identity among these women. With a sense of awe and mystery, for example, she looks to older girls who wear black clothes and makeup. She experiments with womanhood herself in “The Family of Little Feet,” a story in which Esperanza and her friends cavort about the neighborhood in high heel shoes, but are forced to flee when they attract unwanted male attention.
Esperanza’s sense of selfidentity is also interwoven with her family’s house, which emerges throughout the book as an important metaphor for her circumstances. She longs for her own house, which serves as a symbol of the stability, financial means, and sense of belonging that she lacks in her environment: “a house all my own-Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem. ” As the stories develop, Esperanza matures. She tums from looking outward at her world to a more introspective viewpoint that reveals several sides of her character.
Esperanza is a courageous girl who recognizes the existence of a bigger world beyond I 1 6 Magdalena Cordero “Nenny” is Esperanza’s younger sister. Esperanza sees her little sister as childish and unable to understand the world as she does: “Nenny is too young to be my friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them and sometimes they come like Nenny. ” However, because the two girls have brothers, Esperanza understands that Nenny is her own responsibility to guide and protect.
Esperanza and Nenny share common bonds both as sisters and as Chicana females. In the story “Laughter,” a certain neighborhood house reminds both sisters of Mexico, a connection possible only because of their shared experience: “Nenny says: Yes, that’s Mexico all right. That’s what I was thinking exactly. ” Mama Cordero Esperanza’s mother is typical of the women in Latin American communities whose life is defined by marriage, family, children, and traditionally female activities. Mama reveals herself as a superstitious figure who tells Esperanza that she was bom on an evil day and that she will pray for her.
Mama operates as a caretaker and has authority over her household, and she is portrayed as a martyr, sacrificing her own needs for those of her family. “I could’ve been somebody, you know? ” Mama proclaims to Esperanza, explaining that she left school because she was ashamed that she didn’t N o ve I s f o r S t u d e n t s T h e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t have nice clothes. Mama wishes for her daughters a better life outside the cycle of subjugation that characterizes her own, and she views education as the ticket out of that way of life. Nenny Cordero See Magdalena Cordero Media Adaptations
The House on Mango Street was adapted as a sound recording entitled House on Mango Street; Woman Hollering Creek, published by Random House in 1992. It is read by Sandra Cisneros. Papa Cordero Esperanza’s father is portrayed as a man burdened with the obligation of providing for his family. Papa holds up a lottery ticket hopefully as he describes to the family the house they will buy one day. In the story “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark,” Papa reveals his vulnerability to Esperanza, his eldest child, when he learns of his own father’s death and asks her to convey the news to her siblings while he returns to Mexico for the funeral.
Earl This man with a southern accent, a jukebox repairman according to Esperanza, appears in the story “The Earl of Tennessee. ” He occupies a dark basement apartment and brings home women of ill repute whom Esperanza and her friends naively take to be his wife. tragic figure who stays indoors all the time because of her fear of speaking English. Marin Marin is a Puerto Rican neighbor, an older girl with whom Esperanza and her friends are fascinated.
Marin wears makeup, sells Avon, and has a boyfriend in Puerto Rico whom she secretly intends to marry, but meanwhile, she is responsible for the care of her younger cousins. Elenita Elenita, “witch woman” who tells fortunes with the help of Christian icons, tarot cards, and other accouterments, tells Esperanza after reading her cards that she sees a “home in the heart. This leaves Esperanza disappointed that a “real house” does not appear in her future. Minerva Minerva is a young woman not much older than Esperanza who “already has two kids and a husband who left. ” Louie The oldest in a family of girls, Louie and his family rent a basement apartment from Meme Ortiz’s mother.
His cousin Marin lives with the family and helps take care of his younger sisters. Although Louie is really her brother’s friend, Esperanza notices that he “has two cousins and that his t-shirts never stay tucked in his pants. ” Juan Ortiz “Meme” is a neighbor of Esperanza’s who has a large sheepdog. “The dog is big, like a man dressed in a dog suit, and runs the same way its owner does, clumsy and wild and with the limbs flopping all over the place like untied shoes. ” Meme Ortiz See Juan Ortiz Lucy Lucy is a neighborhood girl whom Esperanza befriends even though her clothes “are crooked and old.
” Lucy and her sister Rachel are among the first friends Esperanza makes when she moves onto Mango Street. Rachel Rachel is Lucy’s sister, a sassy girl according to Esperanza. Esperanza and Lucy parade around the neighborhood in high heel shoes with her in the story “The Family of Little Feet. ” Mamacita In “No Speak English,” Mamacita is the plump mother of a man across the street, a comic and V o I u m e Rafaela Rafaela stays indoors and observes the world from her windowsill, “because her husband is afraid Rafaela will run away since she is too beauI 1 7 2 T h e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t
tiful to look at. ” Rafaela stands as a symbol for the interior world of women on Mango Street, whose lives are circumscribed and bound by the structure of home and family. Ruthie Ruthie, “the only grown-up we know who likes to play,” is a troubled, childlike woman whose husband left her and was forced to move from her own house in the suburbs back to Mango Street with her mother. Sally Sally wears black clothes, short skirts, nylons, and makeup. Esperanza looks upon her with fascination and wonder, and wants to emulate her, but the dark side of Sally’s life is revealed in her relationship with her abusive father.
She trades one type of ensnarement for another by manrying a marshmallow salesman before the eighth grade. Sire Sire is a young man who leers at Esperanza as she walks down the street, provoking in her inextricable feelings of desire, foreboding, and fear. Esperanza says that “it made your blood freeze to have somebody look at you like that. ” The Three Sisters “The Three Sisters” are Rachel and Lucy’s elderly aunts who come to visit when Rachel and Lucy’s baby sister dies. The three ladies recognize Esperanza’s strong-willed nature, and plead with her not to forget the ones she leaves behind on Mango Street when she flees from there one day.
Rosa Vargas In the story, “There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do,” Rosa is portrayed as a woman left in the lurch by a husband who abandoned her and their unruly kids. “They are bad those Vargas, and how can they help it with only one mother who is tired all the time from buttoning and bottling and babying, and who cries every day for the man who left without even leaving a dollar for bologna or a note explaining how come. ” product of the community in which she lives and one of the only figures courageous enough to transcend her circumstances.
Like all adolescents, Esperanza struggles to forge her own identity. In many respects, Esperanza’s own keen observations and musings about the women in her neighborhood are her way of processing what will happen to her in the future and what is within her power to change. On the one hand, she is surrounded by adolescent myths and superstitions about sexuality. In the story “Hips,” the adolescent Esperanza contemplates why women have hips: “The bones just one day open. One day you might decide to have kids, and then where are you going to put them? “
Esperanza boldly experiments with the trappings of womanhood by wearing high heels in “The Family of Little Feet,” and in “Sally,” she looks enviously to the girl as an image of maturity: “My mother says to wear black so young is dangerous, but I want to buy shoes just like yours. ” However, Esperanza’s brushes with sexuality are dangerous and negative in “The First Job” and “Red Clowns,” and she feels betrayed by the way love is portrayed by her friends, the movies, and magazines. Esperanza observes characters such as Sally, Minerva, and Rafaela, who, through early and abusive marriages, are trapped in the neighborhood and into identifying themselves through their male connections.
After witnessing this, Esperanza says in “Beautiful & Cruel,” “I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain. ” Esperanza also forges her identity through the metaphor of the house. Her longing for a house of her own underscores her need for something uplifting and stable with which she can identify. Throughout the book there is a tension between Esperanza’s ties to the barrio and her impressions of another kind of life outside of it.
Ultimately, Esperanza’s ability to see beyond her immediate surroundings allows her to transcend her circumstances and immaturity. Culture and Heritage Difference Esperanza keenly observes the struggles of Hispanic Americans who wish to preserve the essence of their heritage while striving to forge productive lives within American culture. It is through the sordid details of the lives of Esperanza’s neighbors that we glimpse the humorous, moving, and tragic sides of these struggles. Esperanza’s community serves as a microcosm of Latinos in America, and her own identity is interwoven with the N o v e I s.
Coming of Age Through various themes in The House on Mango Street Esperanza reveals herself as both a I 1 8 f o r S t u d e n t s T h e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t identity of the neighborhood. People in the barrio relate to one another because of a shared past and current experience. In “Those Who Don’t,” Esperanza considers the stereotypes and fears that whites have of Latinos and vice versa. Cisneros weaves together popular beliefs, traditions, and other vestiges of the countries from which she and her neighbors trace their ancestry.
In “No Speak English,” for example, an old woman paints her walls pink to recall the colorful appearance of the houses in Mexico, a seemingly hopeless gesture in the drab underbelly of Chicago. She wails when her grandson sings the lyrics to an American television commercial but cannot speak Spanish. The tragic Mamacita risks losing her identity if she assimilates, like her little grandson, into American culture. In “Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water,” the so-called “witch woman” of the neighborhood preserves the old wives’ tales, superstitions, and traditional remedies for curing headaches, forgetting an old flame, and curing insomnia.
Despite these ties to the past, Esperanza leaves no doubt that she is destined to leave this neighborhood for a bigger world outside the barrio, an allusion to her dual cultural loyalties. Esperanza believes that one day she will own her own house outside the neighborhood. However, she also leaves no doubt that she will return one day for those unable to leave the environment on their own. In “Bums in the Attic,” for example, she describes how she will let bums sleep in the attic of her house one day, “because I know how it is to be without a house.
” In “The Three Sisters,” Esperanza gives further foreshadowing that she will one day leave Mango Street, but will return to help others. “You will always be Mango Street,” three ladies tell her. “You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. ” Esperanza leaves the reader with the notion that she will leave but will not forget her roots. Though she does not always want to belong to this environment, she realizes that her roots are too strong to resist. The books and papers Esperanza takes with her at the end of the book are her means of freedom from the ugly house and the social constraints on the neighborhood.
Topics for Further Study * Characterize the social constraints of the women in Esperanza’ s neighborhood, and describe how Esperanza both responds to and transcends the social forces in her environment. on * * Discuss the metaphor of the house in The House Mango Street. Discuss The House on Mango Street in relationship to the history of Mexican Americans in large cities of the United States. Gender Roles The House on Mango Street is dedicated “a las Mujeres”-to the women. As the narrator, Esperanza offers the reader the greatest insights into the lives of female characters.
One of the most enduring themes of the book is the socialization of females within Chicano society based on the fixed roles of the family. Cisneros explores the dynamV o I u m e ics of women’s lives within this precarious and male-dominated society, where the conditions of females are predetermined by economic and social constraints. For most women in the neighborhood, these constraints are too powerful to overcome. However, Esperanza possesses the power to see beyond her circumstances and the world of the ghetto, while those around her fall prey to it and perpetuate its cycle.
Esperanza’s mother is typical of a Hispanic woman grounded in this way of life. Throughout the book, Esperanza deals with themes of womanhood, especially the role of single mothers. The interior world of females whose lives are tied to activities inside the house is contrasted with the extemal world of males, who go to work and operate in society at large. In “Boys & Girls,” for example, Esperanza notes the difference between herself and her brothers: “The boys and the girls live in separate worlds. The boys in their universe and we in ours. My brothers for example.
They’ve got plenty to say to me and Nenny inside the house. But outside they can’t be seen talking to girls. ” Esperanza offers a feminine view of growing up in a Chicano neighborhood in the face of a socialization process that keeps women married, at home, and immobile within the society. The women in this book face domineering fathers and husbands, and raise children, often as single parents, under difficult circumstances. Many tales have tragic sides, such as those that paint the constrained existence of some of the women and girls in the neighborhood under the strong arm of husI l 9.
2 Th e H o u s e o n M a n g o S t r e e t bands or fathers. The story “There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do,” tells of an abandoned young wife and her unruly children. In “Linoleum Roses,” Sally is not allowed to talk on the phone or look out the window because of a jealous, domineering husband. Girls marry young in this society: “Minerva is only a little bit older than me but already she has two kids and a husband who left. ” But Esperanza is a courageous character who defies the stereotypes of Chicanas.
She laments the attitudes that prevail in her community. Of her name, Esperanza says, “It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine. She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horsewhich is supposed to be bad luck if you’re born female-but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don’t like their women strong. ” It is Esperanza’s power to see beyond the barriers of her neighborhood, fueled by her education gained through reading and writing, that keep her from being trapped in the same roles as the women who surround her.
twenty-one steps, all lopsided and jutting like crooked teeth. ” Mamacita’s son paints the inside walls of her house pink, a reminder of the Mexican home she left to come to America. The furniture in Elena’s house is covered in red fur and plastic. Esperanza gives the impression of a crowded neighborhood where people live in close quarters and lean out of windows, and where one can hear fighting, talking, and music coming from other houses on the street. Esperanza describes the types of shops in the concrete landscape of Mango Street: a laundromat, a junk store, the corner grocery.
Cats, dogs, mice, and cockroaches make appearances at various times. However, while Esperanza gives fleeting glimpses of specific places, the images that the girl paints of her neighborhood are mostly understood through the people that inhabit it. Structure Just like Esperanza, whose identity isn’t easy to define, critics have had difficulty classifying The House on Mango Street. Is it a collection of short stories? A novel? Essays? Autobiography? Poetry? Prose poems? The book is composed of very short, loosely organized vignettes.
Each stands as a whole in and of itself, but collectively the stories cumulate in a mounting progression that creates an underlying coherence; the setting remains constant, and the same characters reappear throughout the tales. Cisneros once explained: “I wanted to write stories that were a cross between poetry and fiction-[I] wanted to write a collection which could be read at any random point without having any knowledge of what came before or after. ” Despite the disjunctive nature of the stories, as they evolve, Esperanza undergoes a maturation process, and she emerges at the end showing a more
courageous and forthright facade. Point of View The House on Mango Street is narrated by the adolescent Esperanza, who tells her story in the form of short, vivid tales. The stories are narrated in the first person (“I”), giving the reader an intimate glimpse of the girl’s outlook on the world. Although critics often describe Esperanza as a childlike narrator, Cisneros said in a 1992 interview in Interviews with Writers of the Post-Colonial World: “If you take Mango Street and translate it, it’s Spanish.
The syntax, the sensibility, the diminutives, the way of looking at inanimate objects-that’s not a child’s voice as is sometimes said. That’s Spanish! I didn’t notice that when I was writing it. ” Incorporating and translating Spanish expressions literally into English, often without quotation marks, adds a singular narrative flavor that distinguishes Cisneros’s work from that of her peers. Imagery Despite certain underlying threads that link the tales in The House on Mango Street, the stories nonetheless remain disembodied from the kind of master narrative that typifies much of American fiction.
The stories have a surreal and fragmented quality consistent with short, impressionistic glimpses into the mind of Esperanza. Rather than relying on long descriptive and narrative sequences that characterize many novels in English, Cisneros reveals dialogue and evokes powerful imagery with few words. With a minimum number of words, Cisneros includes humorous elements like the nicknames of her playmates, family, and neighbors-Nenny, Meme, and Kiki, for example. But she also, with N o v e I s Setting.
The House on Mango Street is set in a Latino neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza briefly describes some of the rickety houses in her neighborhood, beginning with her own, which she says is “small and red with tight steps in front. ” Of Meme Ortiz’s house, Esperanza says that “Inside the floors slant-And there are no closets. Out front there are 1 2 0 f o r S t u d e n t s T h e H o u s e o n M a n go S t r e e t few descriptive elements, evokes the ugliness of violence and sexual aggression swirling around her in the barrio.
The author’s carefully crafted, compact sentences convey poignant meanings that can be read on different levels. Seemingly simple dialogue reveals deeper, underlying concerns of the narrator. A straightforward dialogue between Esperanza and Nenny about a house that reminded the girls of Mexico in the story “Laughter,” for example, evokes the connection of the girls to one another and to the country of their heritage. The bizarre yet moving experiences of Esperanza evoke a social commentary but do n.