The House on Mango Street: Literary Analysis Essay
Sandra Cisneros “The House on Mango Street” is a compilation of essays that are not entirely developed poems or narratives. The setting of the novel is Mango Street (Cisneros 19). The protagonist, Esperanza, shifts to a poor, Latino community with her family. Esperanza is the center of the novel and the narrator, which shows her significance. Sally is the person Esperanza adores and seeks to make a friend out of. Lastly, Nenny, Esperanza younger sister, represents responsibility for the protagonist. Major themes of this novel include the struggle for identity, sexuality versus independence, the influence of language, social class, gender, familial relationships, and friendship. One significant scene is Esperanza’s expression of the hatred for her name when she says, “in Spanish it means too many letters” (41). Even though Esperanza endures sexual abuses, Cisneros expresses optimism to the degree that “The House on Mango Street” is not a novel about sexual assault.
Sally is beautiful to the extent that it is harmful to herself and those close to her. Sally is significant because she represents Esperanza’s aspired achievements. Sally’s parents and Esperanza acknowledge the dangerous nature of her beauty. For instance, Sally’s father says her daughter’s beauty is “trouble” (35). At one point, even Esperanza’s mother calls Sally’s way of dressing “dangerous,” which refers to a time Sally wears “nylons and sexy black shoes” (48). However, Esperanza overlooks these dangers and continues to admire and idolize Sally. Esperanza says Sally has “eyes like Cleopatra,” which she attributes to her cruelty to other people (49). Esperanza says Sally possibly adopts this cruelty to others because of her beauty from films. For example, Sally does not talk to anyone at school (46). To Esperanza, Sally symbolizes a kindred spirit in spite of all the rumors about her promiscuity spreading around school. Esperanza sees Sally as a person who thinks a lot about running away from the neighborhood.
Nenny acts as a foil to her older sister’s character. At most times, Esperanza has to watch over Nenny although her innocence irritates Esperanza. Nenny is a nuisance to Esperanza as she is forced to introduce her to Rachel and Lucy. At the same time, Esperanza has to steer Nenny clear of immoral influences like the Vargas brothers (96). The foiling effect of Nenny’s role in the novel arises in the traits that her older sister desires. Nenny is the short form of “Magdalena,” a name that Esperanza admires (23). In addition, Esperanza says Nenny has beautiful eyes and glossy, straight hair. This relationship between siblings shows Nenny’s independence. For instance, when, Rachel and Lucy compose songs about hips, Nenny sings old, traditional mantras (30). Nenny and Esperanza are siblings who exhibit quite different behavior and ways of thinking that mask the primary similarities. For instance, Esperanza and Nenny find certain situations funny that others do not (32).
Esperanza aspires to grow and improve her life personally, as well as those of her parents (99). From the definition of her parents, Mama and Papa, Esperanza cares for them tremendously. Esperanza considers mama and papa the powers that hold the house on Mango Street together. Even when Esperanza is ashamed of some of the decisions her mama and papa make, she still memorializes them. For instance, Mama and Papa often dream of winning the lottery and purchasing a new, bigger house for their children (20). However, this dream does not deter Papa from continuing his work in the gardens of the homes of the wealthy within the city and Mama from catering to Esperanza and Nenny. Another example is Mama’s reason for dropping out of school. Mama was embarrassed about her lack of beautiful clothes and quit school (92). Mama uses this lesson to teach Esperanza to always pursuing her goals irrespective of overwhelming shame.
In conclusion, Cisneros expresses optimism to the degree that “The House on Mango Street” stops being a novel about sexual assault although Esperanza endures sexual abuses. The permeating sense of positivity in the novel originates from the characters’ illustration of the will to persist, accomplish, and dream of an improved lifestyle. This positivity adds to the novel’s beauty in a neighborhood full of blue and painful narratives. The book follows an arrangement of two to three paragraphs in length with internal rhymes that provide a poetic essence. The novel’s arrangement echoes the short attention span of a young woman who switches from topic to topic without critically analyzing or learning from any of these events. Cisneros makes the novel an easy read using a simple style of writing. Young readers understand the themes and concepts that the author introduces through the narrator’s lens.
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. Los Angeles, CA: Arte Público Press, 1984. Print.