House on Mango Street

What does a house represent to the narrator?

We didn’t always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can’t remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there’d be one more of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six—Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my sister Nenny and me.
The house on Mango Street is ours and we don ‘t have to pay rent to anybody or share the yard with the people downstairs or be careful not to make too much noise and there isn’t a landlord banging on the ceiling. But even so it’s not the house we’d thought we’d get.
We had to leave the flat on Loomis quick. The water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn’t fix them. We were using the washroom next door and carrying water over in empty milk gallons. That’s why Mama and Papa looked for a house, and that’s why we moved into the house on Mango Street, far away, on the other side of town.
Our parents always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn’t have to move each year. And our house would have running water and pipes that worked. And inside it would have real stairs, not hallway stairs, but stairs inside like the houses on T.V. And we’d have a basement and at least three washrooms so when we took a bath we wouldn’t have to tell everybody. Our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told us before we went to bed.
But the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it at all. It’s small and red with tight little steps in front and windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath. There is no front yard, only four little elms the city planted by the curb. Out back is a small garage for the car we don’t own yet and a small yard that looks smaller between the two buildings on either side. There are stairs in our house, but they ‘re ordinary hallway stairs, and the house has only one washroom, very small. Everybody has to share a bedroom.
Once when we were living on Loomis, a nun from my school passed by and saw me playing out front. The laundromat downstairs had been boarded up because it had been robbed two days before and the owner had painted on the wood YES WE’RE OPEN so as not to lose business.
Where do you live? she asked.
There, I said pointing up to the third floor.
You live there?
There. I had to look to where she pointed—the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out. You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded.
I knew then I had to have a house. One I could point to. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama said. Temporary, said Papa. But I know how those things go.

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TheS house on Mango Street represents a temporary solution. It isn't "the house". It is not the house of her dreams, merely a place to live.


The House on Mango Street