Questions: House on Mango Street
1) In terms of what Esperanza is told regarding always having a part of themselves within a community, I will tend to agree. Though there is always the possibility that someone can completely reinvent themselves upon leaving their childhood home, there will always be that small influence from their home environment that will remain. It, at the very least, heavily informs how we treat and relate to the future (as our pasts are all we have to go on to build our lives forward). In terms of intercultural communication, it stresses the importance of relating to others across cultures, as there is no way to fully assimilate into another culture. Culture teaches us "how to adapt to [our] surroundings," making our childhood cultures very influential (Smovar and Porter 24).
2) In the world of House on Mango Street, the blended cultural identity of both Latino and American influences leads sometimes to cultural tensions, in which friendships are put to the test and evaluated based on how "Latina" the other girls are, in Esperanza's case. In the chapter "Our Good Day," Esperanza stops being friends with Cathy in favor of Lucy and Rachael, two Chicana sisters from Texas. Beforehand, Cathy had disparaged everyone in the neighborhood, and claimed that she was going to move out with her family due to the increasing Latina population. To that end, Esperanza hitches her wagon to Lucy and Rachael, chipping in to buy a bike. This is the moment where Esperanza chooses to ally herself more with her own people, as Cathy's racism and prejudice pushes her away. The Latino community seems to be the 'dominant culture' within the world of Mango Street, and so Esperanza's choice allies her to the majority in her neighborhood (Samovar and Porter 8).
3) In the case of the chapter "Those Who Don't," Esperanza's perception of her neighborhood as safe, and her perception of people who are scared of it as people "who don't know any better," dramatically affects intercultural communication by placing value judgments on people outside the experiences of others. At the same time, the same is true of outsiders, as they judge those neighborhoods to be unsafe, and keeps them at a distance. This is known as culture shock, where people unfamiliar with the culture often are more irritable and offensive to you (Samovar and Porter 10). Outsiders see those as threats, while those inside the community recognize that they are harmless and friendly. By discounting and dismissing the fears of others instead of addressing them, they too play into the gaps in intercultural communication as neither side offers an olive branch to the other.
4) In the novel, House on Mango Street presents the Latino community of this Chicago neighborhood as very tightly knit, impoverished, and extremely family-oriented. The closeness of the community is evidenced and constructed through the smallness of the living areas - "The house has only one washroom. Everybody has to share a bedroom – Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny" (Cisneros 1.5). It is also shown to be extremely unsafe or undesirable to others, as evidenced by Esperanza's conversation with the nun: "You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded" (Cisneros 1.10). These methods of communication are used to convey person perception, sizing up others who may be seen as 'undesirable' to be around (Samovar and Porter 28).
Cisneros, Sandra. (1984). The House on Mango Street.
Samovar, L.A., Porter, R.E. & McDaniel, E.R. (2008). Communication between cultures . 6th ed. Belmont, CA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.