The House on Mango Street
In the book “The House on Mango Street,” the main character is a Latina girl whose name is Esperanza. The novel takes us through her transformation being a low self-esteemed young girl into a young woman who is seeking independence. The book begins with her family moving to their own new house located on Mango Street. She speaks about her family, neighbors and a vision she has in secret.
Esperanza’s family has relocated for at least a few times; as a result, Esperanza has never had any chance to make friends with anyone. She grew up with her siblings, a sister, and two brothers but because of the age difference, she does not feel too attached to them. She only has few friends, and none of them are ‘true’ friends. Esperanza’s life goes through significant life changes throughout the novel. Esperanza’s identity changes, she changes the way she views her life, herself and even those around her. This new house does not reflect what she or her parents had dreamt. The house is surrounded by a poor neighborhood, it is tiny and without a yard compared to what she had dreamt of. She had dreamt of a house where she had her own bedroom, built on a top hill and trees around it. At the end of the book, she has matured and has decided not to follow the only path that Latina girls are imposed on.
Esperanza is an insecure and shy girl. She is always worried about what other people of her and also what they think about the house she lives in. Esperanza is ashamed of their house till she is afraid of telling anyone at the school where she stays. Even though her current house is better than the one they previously lived in, she doesn’t feel comfortable. In one of the chapters “The First Job”, she has started working, she feels uncomfortable during lunchtime. She eats alone since she does not know anyone and she is afraid of making friends with her co-workers. She feels so insecure until she even thought of paying others to be friends with her. At one point, she took her little sister Nunny’s money so that she with two other girls can buy a bike and share it. She actually thought that these girls wanted to be her friends, but the only reason they allowed her to get on the deal was that they were five dollars short. Fear made her naïve to people surrounding her who desired harm her. Her naivety led to a very unfortunate betrayal. She is excited when Sally invites her to the circus. She thought she was going to enjoy because she was informed the circus is fun by movies, Sally, and magazines. It turned out that she was deceived because instead of having a good time at the circus she ends up being raped by a boy whom sally left her alone with.
Esperanza has a negative perception of herself. Although almost all adolescent girls go through this stage where they feel insecure, brainless and unattractive, she seems to experience this to a large extent. She is not happy with her own life, I told myself the book ends with her committing suicide. Most of her feelings are because she does not have any positive role model or the support of her family. She does not have any close friend to talk to, and her family shines her off, this makes her to see life pessimistically that she ends up causing herself pain. The gender separation she experiences is what majorly influences her personality. At one instance she likens her relationship with her brothers to one of the comrades. She also describes her relationship with her younger sister Nenny to be one of the playmates. She says that Nenny is “too young to be my friend”. She is aware of her lonely situation till she compares herself to “a red balloon tied to an anchor”. Nenny is not just her playmate but also her responsibility, she sees her as the anchor that is keeping her from making new friends.
Even though she is naïve, insecure, shy and has low self-esteem, she is very optimistic. She has hope that one day she will have her own house and she will not be ashamed of it. She makes up her mind to rise and fight against Machismo. She wants to be an independent woman who is able to take care of her own needs without the help of any man. By doing so, she challenges the social and cultural expectations she is supposed to uphold as a Latina woman. She is determined to create her own unique personality by deciding not to “lay neck on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain”. She does not want to grow up like a typical Latina girl whose main goal is growing up and become a good wife and a mother. She dreams of being an independent woman different from what is expected of her by the society. Throughout the book, she dreams of leaving her house on Mango Street, but at the end of the book, she reveals that she wants to return. She intends to return and help those girls who are not as lucky as her to leave Mango Street.
The story begins with an insecure, shy girl and then she matures. She transforms from being a naïve young girl into a strong self-empowered young woman. She dares to stand on her own and wage war against machismo. She is determined to prove to society that women can do more than just be good wives and mothers. The book highlights the challenges poor people undergo as they struggle to obtain their self-identity. She shows us the effects of poverty in life. She says at the end that she does want to come back. She recognizes Mango Street to be part of her roots and has greatly influenced her personality. She is aware of the fact that she can never leave Mango Street which shows us how mature she has become. The books outline a very clear struggle for self-definition. Esperanza struggles with self-identity in a community that separation between rich and poor people exists.