In the house on mango street.
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The children admire Ruthie because she "is the only grown up we know who likes to play." Ruthie finds her own private joy in life, as "she doesn't need anybody to laugh with, she just laughs."
Esperanza does not understand why Ruthie sleeps on her mother's couch instead of in her own home with her husband. She simply adds another week to her visit, and avoids returning to that "real house all her own" that Esperanza envies. Ruthie functions in the story as an example of how Esperanza could end up if she does not make wise decisions. Ruthie is the manifestation of the social stigma of a marriage gone bad; she is a warning against wasting ones personal potential for success. So too, Ruthie also serves as a moral lesson to Esperanza to not set too much hope in illusions of the better life, for they are often deceiving.