The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a poignant coming-of-age book centered around a young Latina girl, Esperanza, in 1960s Chicago.
In a series of vignettes, or short stories, Cisneros examines themes of maturity, belonging, poverty, and femininity. The vignettes are told from Esperanza’s point of view, laden with rich imagery and symbolism, and hazy- like they are being told in a dream. Each vignette focuses on small events in Esperanza’s day to day life, and provides insight into her thoughts and desires.
Cisneros skillfully presents the dichotomy of Esperanza and her family’s life- many of the vignettes center around happy moments in their lives, like playing outside with friends, getting a first job, or going to a neighbor’s party, but even so, the abject hopelessness and desperation of their situation lurks just below the surface. The entire book is a masterful study of not only Esperanza’s situation, but the human condition- a careful examination of ritualistic maturity, traditions, gender norms, and youth.
Cisneros writes in a simple, easily understandable vernacular, complete with sentence fragments and a lack of quotation marks that makes each vignette easy to read. Nonetheless, the book contains a depth of emotion and, often, desperation that was immensely heart-wrenching to witness. I grew up in circumstances close to those of Esperanza’s, so reading about her experiences took me back to my own childhood, to times when I felt the same way she did. Personally, I would rate this book a 10/10.
This book contains some mature themes.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.
This story is set in a place called Tortilla Flat in Monterey, California. It’s about five men that are paisanos (compatriots). They are Danny, Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria, and Pirate. These men are attracted to money and content with being friends with each other, they all walk their own bitter life path.
Danny was an heir who inherited two huge houses from his grandpa and invited his friend Pilon to stay. Through his innocence, Pilon’s rent money is postponed but he accidentally burns the house down. To cover compensation, the other men introduced earlier joined the group, but still, nobody offered rent money to Danny. And amazingly, Danny never mentioned the money to his astute tenants.
In real life, we all know that if you don’t pay the money, the next day you will be finding yourself without a house. Such a character like Danny really doesn’t exist at all in our brutal society. This book to me mainly molded the variety of personalities beneath the harsh satin of this world, but we all have similarities with each other: we are gullible to our friends and we all have greediness hidden within us for the cravings of money and wealth.
The House on Mango Street, a book by Sandra Cisneros, highlights the life of a Latina girl growing up in poverty. Desperate to escape her seemingly predestined fate of unhappiness, the protagonist Esperanza writes her story and her path to salvation. The story is told through a series of vignettes, all expressing Esperanza’s deeply rooted emotions of joy and sadness. Throughout the events that occur on Mango Street, we can see that Esperanza is surrounded by women trapped either by themselves, or by the men in their lives. Esperanza’s fate is closely intertwined with these women, whom she discovers have similar motives to her own. Not only does Esperanza want to escape their fate, she wants to do so by defining herself.
Although The House on Mango Street is a hard book to truly understand and grasp, by nature of its writing style and subtle complexities, it highlights so many themes that are relevant in our society. Among them, the struggles of self definition ranks highly. Cisneros is able to illustrate the struggle of defining yourself amidst opposition from forces that we have no control over, such as our gender, race, and socioeconomic status. All too often throughout the story, the reader sees girls who change themselves in their desperate plight to be accepted. The only question to ask yourself is, to what extent must a person go to live the life that they dream of?