The House on Mango Street
The work The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, who was one of the first Chicana novelists, attracts the attention of the global community because it includes autobiographical details and tells the story of a girl living in a poor Puerto Rican urban area in Chicago. The House on Mango Street is a unique piece of writing as it addresses several crucial topics. First of all, it concerns the question of the strength of the human spirit and personality, as well as the theme of hope. This novel could be compared to a flower. The longer you look at it, the more features you notice. The same can be said about this work. The more a reader indulges in the analysis of the story’s essence, the more meanings he finds. The novel consists of forty-four episodes that gradually make the reader acquainted with the protagonist, her life difficulties, various experiences and decisions. The painful growth produces a strong effect on Esperanza, as it assists her in building strong self-confidence. Although Esperanza struggles to find her purpose in life, she later realizes the many adversities she had endured helped her find herself and follow her dreams.
Esperanza Cordero is the protagonist of the story who moved to a new neighborhood and experienced severe life difficulties there. These hardships shaped the personality of the girl and built her inner stamina. At first sight, she resembles an ordinary girl with common problems. However, deep analysis of her life experience shows the audience that this individual is a fighter who manages to survive all the difficulties and become a spiritually strong person. In this work, Esperanza is shown at a vulnerable age. She is not a child but not yet a woman. She understands the reality of life but finds herself in the process of encountering the world, people, her sexuality, feelings, etc. The author applied the personality of this girl to reveal the essential idea she wanted to convey. Sandra Cisneros used Esperanza as this girl portrays a typical Chicano teenager.
She lives in a society that is historically patriarchal and tries to make her own life choices. After being assaulted by a group of boys, the girl realizes that being a beautiful female is extremely dangerous. Despite her young age of twelve, Esperanza becomes a perfect narrator that straightforwardly states the truth without any embellishments and keeps the readers alert (Rubi 245). The voice of the girl stands above the polyphony of other female voices discussed in the work. Esperanza is different from other people in the neighborhood as she tries to understand what the life in ghetto holds for her and what expectations the community has of her and females in general. Her sensitivity, creativity, and aspirations differentiate Esperanza from other girls and women.
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The observation of the life of women in her area shows Esperanza that they suffer from gender discrimination, and the girl understands that she does not want to be like them. She grasps that her milieu imposes certain gender roles (Nikodinoska 195). Most females in the story are passive, they obediently accept that their place is behind the man and give him the right to rule their lives.
“She sits at home because she is afraid to go outside without his permission. She looks at all the things they own: the towels and the toaster, the alarm clock and the drapes. She likes looking at the walls, at how neatly their corners meet, the linoleum roses on the floor, the ceiling smooth as wedding cake” (100).
Such observations shape the personality of Esperanza as she becomes a representative of the hybrid identity (Nikodinoska 195). On the one hand, she accepts the part of what her parents have taught her throughout the lifetime. On the other hand, she tries to oppose the issues in her society that she dislikes. Esperanza finds herself in a constant struggle as she tries to negotiate her traditional Mexican values with the existing modern and liberating mindset (Nikodinoska 197). Under the surface of a plain life story narrated by the young girl, the author conveys her message. It shows the audience that an individual possesses the inner power to fight against life conditions that he or she dislikes. “One day I will pack my bags of books and paper. One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever” (Cisneros 110). She used the personality of a young and vulnerable girl in order to communicate to the world that everyone can make changes and rule their life.
The author manifests that economic status, gender, social class are just barriers that exist in the human mind. An individual, by nature, has the strength to confront hardships. Using the story of a young girl, Cisneros communicates her viewpoint. She argues that difficulties do not kill people but make them spiritually and psychologically stronger, able to fight for their interests and ruin the old and outdated system of values. It was the case of Esperanza. Despite the fact that she was the representative of a patriarchal society, she managed to prove that the place of a woman is not at home cleaning the linoleum, as it was with Sally (Foster 91). Her mission is fighting for the values, happiness, and well-being:
“She stood in the middle of her kitchen, gaping at her floor, absorbed in the linoleum’s stain, a muddy brown stain in the same corner of the kitchen. For years she had tried chemicals of every brand… But the floor covering only looked thinner and paler and the dirty film reminded her that her world was imperfect” (Cisneros 47).
This passage reveals the difference that existed between Esperanza and other Chicana women. They had accepted their place and obediently performed their duties up to the moment when something showed them that their life was imperfect. Sandra Cisneros deliberately demonstrated this contrast in order to persuade the readership that a woman has the right for an interesting, encouraging, and thrilling life devoted to a career and things she considers essential. She is not obliged to serve her husband unless it is her own wish that brings her happiness.
The novel The House on Mango Street is essential for the audience because by portraying the sufferings of Esperanza, the author shows the difficulties that she endured in her lifetime and that made her strong. The story of Esperanza Cordera is similar to the life Sandra Cisneros led. With the help of this character, the author expresses her own experiences. It is understandable that certain details are added, but the core remains the same. In her novel, Sandra Cisneros states her viewpoint on the life of Chicana people and puts emphasis on the lives of women in the Chicana society. The name Esperanza translated into English means “hope” (De Valdes 164). This fact is very symbolic. It reveals a deep meaning hidden under the verbal surface. Sandra Cisneros wanted to emphasize that Chicana people could hope for a better future in the U.S. By depicting the life difficulties Esperanza endured in her youth and the consequences they produced on her personality, the author tried to show that the same fate was waiting for the Chicana people. They could suffer from difficulties and unbearable living conditions, but in the end, they would manage to survive the difficult times and get better life chances. The story manifests the rebellion that the Chicana people conducted to escape the imposed socialization process. Charles Tatum states that this novel remains one of the most significant contributions to modern literature that managed to capture the hopes, desires, and disillusionment of the young female writer growing in the city (635). While discussing the stories of her life, Esperanza challenges the male concepts of cultural ownership. Esperanza is portrayed as a speaking subject who managed to face extremely difficult life experiences and defy racial, economic, and sexual exploitation.
In conclusion, it should be admitted that Esperanza is not an ordinary girl as she manages to derive valuable information from her life lessons and change her path for a better future. The author of the work, Sandra Cisneros, portrayed the life of a young girl and showed that every Chicana woman had a chance for success and happiness. This is a multi-meaningful work. Layer by layer, it reveals the essence to the readers. One thing, which is evident to everyone, is the fact that hardships are difficult to endure, but they are the challenges that are sent to an individual to reveal his or her true calling, talents, and skills. It is the main message of the work that is hidden under the surface. The protagonist Esperanza is an example of this truth. She was an individual who suffered from multiple difficulties in her life and not only survived but also became a physically, psychologically, and spiritually strong person. This girl is different from other Chicana females, as Esperanza fights against the generally accepted gender roles and norms of her neighborhood and becomes a winner. This work is a valuable source of inspiration as every new attempt at reading it reveals new ideas, shades, and meanings.