"'Aguántate tantito y la fruta caerá en tu mano.' he said. 'Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand. You must be patient, Esperanza.'"
Papa is teaching Esperanza the valuable lesson that good things will happen as long as one is patient. At this point, Esperanza does not yet know the struggle that awaits her. She loses her father, her home, and everything she has ever loved. The metaphor of plants and things growing is a recurring theme throughout the book. In this quote, Papa is sharing his love for nature with his daughter, emphasizing that everything goes in cycles. Everything that dies will be reborn again. Later, when Esperanza and Mama move to the United States, their livelihood is dependent on different agricultural cycles.
"'There is no rose without thorns.'"
Abuelita gives this advice to Esperanza whens she pricks her finger on a rose thorn. Abuelita uses Esperanza's wound to teach her sheltered granddaughter some lessons about reality - that "there is no life without difficulties." Since Esperanza has not experienced any difficulty in her life prior to her father's death, Abuelita's words foreshadow future events in her life.
"'Do not be afraid to start over.'"
Abuelita says this to Esperanza and later, Esperanza utters these wise words herself. They are both speaking about the process of knitting, which serves as a metaphor for rebirth and regeneration. Abuelita tells her granddaughter about how she restarted her life when she moved from Spain to Mexico. Over the course of the novel, tragedy uproots Mama and Esperanza from Mexico and they are forced to start over in the United States. By the end of Esperanza's first year in the USA, she recognizes the power of her grandmother's words: starting over is not only an end, but it is also a chance for a new beginning.
"'She has eight children and sells eggs to survive. Yet when she can barely afford it she gave your mother two hens and helped the crippled woman,' said Miguel. 'The rich take care of the rich and the poor take care of those who have less than they have.'"
Here, Miguel confronts Esperanza about her sheltered upbringing and challenges her to view the world differently. Esperanza always saw her father as a wealthy landowner who cared about his workers as if they were family, but Miguel's declarations make her realize that one does not need to be wealthy to be generous. However, Esperanza does not fully understand Miguel's point until she moves to the United States and has to work as a campesina. She realizes the importance of being selfless and helps to support her family and the people in her community.
"She tried to find the place in her heart where her life was anchored, but she couldn't, so she closed her eyes and pressed the palms of her hands against the earth, making sure it was there."
Everything in Esperanza's life has changed - her father is dead, her home is gone, and she has to leave her Abuelita behind. Her family is no longer wealthy or part of a good social class, and she is moving to a foreign land that is completely unfamiliar to her. At this point, Esperanza has lost everything that once comprised her identity. However, when she is unsure of herself, Esperanza clings to the only thing that she is certain of - the earth. This is also Esperanza's way of remaining connected to her father's memory, because he always taught her to respect and abide by the cycles of nature.
"That night, as she soaked her hands in warm water, she realized that she no longer recognized them as her own. Cut and scarred, swollen and stiff, they looked like the hands of a very old man."
Esperanza matures greatly over the course of the novel. The change in her hands is a physical manifestation of her transition from a wealthy, sheltered girl into to an immigrant farm worker and from a child into a young woman. Her hands are weathered and no longer pretty, but that is just a result of her life experience - which she learns to embrace.
"She repeated Hortensia's recipe and she sat for the second time with her hands smothered, and she realized that it wouldn't matter how much avocado and glycerine she put on them, they would never look like the hands of a wealthy woman from el Rancho de las Rosas. Because they were the hands of a poor campesina."
This is the moment that Esperanza realizes that her life is never going to be the same. She must leave her previous identity behind - forever. Even if her life does become easier in the future, she is no longer the sheltered, wealthy young girl from the beginning of the novel. The changes within her are so intense that she cannot ever go back to the way she was.
"'Esperanza, people here think that all Mexicans are alike. They think that we are all uneducated, dirty, poor, and unskilled. It does not occur to them that many have been trained in professions in Mexico.'"
Here Miguel explains the prejudice that many Americans harbor towards Mexican immigrants. Miguel accepts the fact that in his new society, he is part of a faceless mass of cheap labor and does not have many individual rights. Esperanza has to learn the difficult lesson that even though she is better educated than many white Americans, they will always look down on her simply because she is Mexican.
"Something seemed very wrong about sending people away from their own "free country" because they had spoken their minds."
Many of the Mexican workers are deported as a result of the strike around the asparagus picking site. After witnessing this injustice, Esperanza finally starts to realize that United States is not always free and the upward social mobility that Miguel had once dreamed for is not always possible. Esperanza witnesses firsthand the inherent contradictions in American government policy and practice. In Mexico, Esperanza was ignorant to the issues of the workers on her family's farm because these problems did not have a direct impact on her life.
"'Nothing is right here! Isabel will certainly not be queen no matter how badly she wants it because she is Mexican. You cannot work on engines because you are Mexican.'"
Faced with racial discrimination, Esperanza lashes out at Miguel for giving up his mechanic job. She is no longer sure that the American Dream is within her grasp. Instead of fighting against the oppressors, she releases her anger on Miguel. However, Miguel is the one person who has tried to anchor Esperanza in reality all along. He has grown up accepting life's injustices, while Esperanza is only starting to learn from her new experiences.
Esperanza Rising Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Esperanza Rising is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
“Americans see us as one big, brown group who are good for only manual labor. At this market, no one stares at us or treats us like outsiders or calls us ‘dirty greasers.’” Esperanza had not seen this before in Mexico.