House on Mango Street

Chapter Four: My Name

The theme of women as second-class citizens is reinforced in this chapter. What lines from this text support this theme?

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Chapter Four gives the reader a good idea of the macho stereotypes that predominate Esperanza's childhood. The strong tone emphasizes Esperanza's rejection of sexist folklore, such as the year of the horse being unlucky for females. Indeed, the irony with which she scoffs at the Mexican ideal of the docile woman reveals that Esperanza, while understanding her culture, personally rejects a second class status. "She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horse- which 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." The strength of Esperanza's tone reveals her confidence in her own convictions, as well as her admiration of her "horse woman" ancestor's free spirit, much like her own.

The metaphor of the horse-woman manifests how such independent female spirits were traditionally meant to be curbed by men. Like a horse indeed, the first Esperanza is locked in a cage of domesticity when "my great-grandfather threw a sack over her head and carried her off." Esperanza's amazement at the legitimacy of male domination is evident in this simile: "Just like that, as if she were a fancy chandelier." This reveals Esperanza's comprehension of the cultural relegation of women to the status of objects, their worth determined by their pleasing appearance and function.