House on Mango Street

Major themes

Esperanza has dreams, hopes, and plans. These are symbolized by a house. Esperanza regards the house on Mango Street as simply a house she lives in with her family. When she was younger and constantly on the move from apartment to apartment, her parents promised her a real home with a green yard, real stairs, and running water with pipes that worked. She dislikes the house on Mango Street because its sad appearance and cramped quarters are completely contrary to the ideal home she always wanted. Esperanza's goal becomes having a house of her own.

Esperanza is a keen observer of gender roles. Many of the other female characters spend their lives trapped and isolated by men. Rosa Vargas can't do anything for herself because she has too many children and no one to help her raise the children. Alicia has found herself trapped in the kitchen, as she picks up where her deceased mother left off, cooking and cleaning for her younger siblings, although she would like nothing more than to just attend the university. Minerva has an abusive husband who she is constantly fighting with. She finally kicks him out but then lets him back into her life. Rafaela is stuck inside her house because her husband believes that she is too beautiful to go out. Sally is abused by her father, and she dreams of getting married. She eventually marries an older man who does not allow her to leave the house without him, and she is not allowed to have guests over. Esperanza's stories of all of these women make her certain that she will defy gender roles and remain independent.

Esperanza, like most preteens, is searching for her identity. Esperanza is many things: she comes from a poor family, she is female, she is on the verge of adolescence, and she is Mexican. She sorts out all of these parts of herself through her writing, and she discovers that, although all of these things help define who she is, what is the most important part of her identity is her ability to write. After Esperanza has to grow up and explain to her sisters that their grandpa had died, Esperanza goes to see a fortune teller. “Ah, yes, a home in the heart. I see a home in the heart".[3] Esperanza is disappointed in the result of the fortune telling.


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