The House on Mango Street is a novel written by a well renowned writer, Sandra Cisneros. The main character is a preadolescent girl called Esperanza Cordero. She is Latin and lives in a neighborhood full of Chicanos and Puerto Ricans with her being a Chicana. Her neighborhood is what is called Mango Street and it is somewhat of a ghetto. Every social evil-rape, child molestation, theft- is evidenced in this neighborhood. It is definitely not a safe place to live in but according to the high degree of poverty which is experienced by residents in that area, they have no other choice. Esperanza’s family constitutes her who has two jobs in order to make ends meet for them, her mother who never finished high school but is a good opera singer. She also has a little sister Nenny and two brothers, Carlos and Kiki. Their poor state of living is what drives her to want to live that place and maybe after she has become successful she would come back for the ones she left behind (Sandra 100). The novel mainly brings out the quest to look for a better state of living or in other terms a better home. Esperanza sets out to fulfill the promise made to her by her parents who have not yet shown any signs of fulfilling it. Her parents try to convince that it is temporary but she does not give up the idea of leaving Mango Street.
Being that Esperanza is only on her way to becoming an adolescent and is already tired of being poor and living miserably shows how determined she is. On the other hand, it also reflects on the poor living condition in which she and her family live. They sleep in one room all together the sad part being that they cannot even afford a bigger house (Helena 56). The picture brought out is how small her house is such that they barely fit. This adds to her depression and urge to want to depart the neighborhood and go look out for a better place. It would not be easy for her but she surely shows her determination to do it; the thought that she would later come back for her loved ones, urges her to take the initiative.
A lot happens in Esperanza’s life owing to the fact that she lives in the ghetto. She creates friendship with two girls from Texas, Lucy and Rachael, who become her best friends. These three girls together with Nenny, Esperanza’s sister, go out on adventures around their small neighborhood as a way of having fun. This does not take place every day and so to take her mind off of the situation in the ghetto, she resorts to writing. It is a way expressing her true feelings about the neighborhood. This kind of helps as it takes her mind off of the neighborhood’s not so pleasing activities (Sandra 78). In some way, this also gives her something to smile about and forget the suffocating condition in Mango Street.
The mixture of Chicanos and Puerto Ricans in the neighborhood is not all that appealing. These two groups of people although not every time, constantly have issues between them. These issues add up to the already troubled lives of the residents, Esperanza being one of them. Fathers molest and brutally harm their children. Even if Esperanza’s father is not like that, she is affected by this as some of her friends are victims. She cannot seem to be able to help them as she too is vulnerable (Helena 45). This fact makes her to even want to depart Mango Street immediately but unfortunately she cannot. She has the vision of going out there and making world a better place for the people living in her neighborhood. She knows that it is not their fault but the environment in which they live in is the main issue. This however does not justify the fact that people should be mean to other people or anything of the sort.
Girls in this neighborhood are victims of rape and sexual assault. It is quite frustrating that men cannot seem to find anything else better to do than to victimize young girls. Esperanza during her puberty develops a liking for boys. She likes it when they watch her dance and this boosts her self esteem. It makes her improvise attractive moves therefore becoming the center of attraction. She later becomes a friend of Sally who lives with an abusive father (Sandra 134)). Sally finds consolation by playing around with boys a character that Esperanza does not fully approve. Her dress code is also not that pleasing as she wears short skirts and high heels. This is like calling for attention and also trouble as she could be raped considering the condition in the neighborhood. Esperanza cannot stop being friends with her because she somehow relieves her off the stress which she gets from her abusive father.
It is quite unfortunate that there is no sign of government intervention to better up the neighborhood. There are few resources, for example hospitals, available therefore they cannot cater for the whole area. This is the state of living which the people in mango Street endure every day. It is like they are deserted that they have to live all on their own without any assistance from the government. Consequently they take matters into their own hands and do whatever it is they like. Some struggle hard to make a living by using their time appropriately while others engage in crime and other social evils such as sexual assault. Residents in this neighborhood are vulnerable to these crimes as they cannot do anything about it. Esperanza herself is a victim. Life is definitely not comfortable in Mango Street not for Esperanza or any other person. This is what adds up to the many reasons that she has for wanting to depart the area.
Esperanza is one person who finds pleasure in attending these carnivals. She goes together with her friend Sally. At one moment, they attend the carnival together but Sally leaves Esperanza alone and goes out to have fun with a boy she meets (Helena 156). This frustrates Esperanza but she cannot do anything about it as it is Sally’s nature. While still in the carnival, Esperanza is suddenly attacked by a group of men who sexually assault her. She is depressed by this but she cannot do anything as it is like a custom in Mango Street. She psychologically and mentally suffers from this incident. She did not anticipate for this to happen but being that she lives in Mango Street, it was bound to happen. There is no much choice left for her but to live with the fact that she cannot change the situation in the area. Everything just appears to be wrong and all that is experienced is pain and suffering. Endurance and perseverance is the only way to live in a neighborhood like this. Esperanza applies this until when she will get an opportunity to leave the place. The more she continues to live there, the more the reasons she gets to depart the area.
Male chauvinism is rampant in the neighborhood. Women are treated as inferiors and therefore are taken advantage of. Esperanza at one time is tricked by a man and ends up kissing him. Her kissing of the man that she barely even knows shows how vulnerable women are. She herself knows this but there is no way she can deliver herself or the others from this bondage. As long as she is living in Mango Street, she is always going to be taken advantage of and this also applies to all the other females (Sandra 187). The neighborhood is such a bad place for women to live in as they cannot be seen as they are supposed to. There is definitely no respect for them a fact that torments Esperanza and the others who think that it is unjust to be treated like that. The only solution in Esperanza’s mind is to leave the place and start over a new life elsewhere; a place with no discrimination or torment from men. Quite unfortunately for her, the experiences which she goes through put an end to the dream of leaving Mango Street. She finally gets used to living in that kind of a situation and looses hope of going to live somewhere else.
The description of Mango Street shows what kind of a neighborhood it is. It justifies Esperanza’s quest to go and look for another place to live. There is barely anything pleasant which occurs in that neighborhood be it rape, theft or even child molestation. Fathers beat up their children while men take advantage of young girls and sexually assault them. Esperanza is a victim of sexual assault which took place when she was at the carnival. Her father tries to convince her they will leave the neighborhood but there are no signs of that happening. Though writing helps relieve her of the stress, it does not fully satisfy her. In the end she stills remains in the ghetto where nothing good takes place apart from the carnivals and hanging out with friends. Given a chance, Esperanza cannot risk to let it go as she longs for the day she will leave Mango Street. However she goes through so many experiences which later affect her dream of ever leaving the place. Consequently she loses interest and remains to be part of the tainted neighborhood.
Sandra C. (1984) The House on Mango Street
Helena G. "Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street" (1984). Beginning Ethnic American Literatures. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001. 230-237.