Esperanza’s Eventual Appreciation
In Sandra Cisneros’ coming of age story, House on Mango Street, Esperanza, a young Latina living in Chicago with her family, struggles to come to peace with her impoverished community. Although most of her family remains paralyzed by poverty, Esperanza stays motivated to break the mold of her heritage and to escape her impoverished neighborhood on Mango Street. Throughout House on Mango Street, Esperanza sometimes speaks about how she feels defeated and tired of being so ambitious. Sometimes her family and lack of economic privilege hold her back too much. At the same time, Esperanza often feels grounded by her experiences and observations on Mango Street. Overall, Esperanza internally debates whether or not she should be grateful for her culture and community. Esperanza comes of age when she realizes her gratitude for her impoverished community on Mango Street. This realization does not come to Esperanza in one swing movement; however, by the end of the novel, Esperanza has ultimately realized her appreciation for Mango Street because of its important role in her identity.
At the beginning of House on Mango Street, young Esperanza conveys her shame in Mango Street. In the first vignette “The House on Mango Street”, Esperanza converses with a nun who also lives in her neighborhood. After the nun asks Esperanza where she lives, Esperanza replies, “The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded. I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it” (5). Esperanza lacks pride in Mango Street at the beginning of the novel. She repeatedly uses the word “isn’t” to show her disappointment. The word “isn’t” connotes being let down and missing something. Esperanza also uses the word “real” when describing her future home. Esperanza refuses to call her house on Mango Street “real” which shows her true shame in her neighborhood. In general, at the beginning of House on Mango Street, Esperanza complains about most aspects of her life, including her name, heritage, family but most of all, Mango Street. The beginning of House on Mango Street mostly consists of Esperanza explaining her constant disappointment with her life and how she consistently feels let down.
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Throughout House on Mango Street, Esperanza reflects on her plans for when she escapes the binds of her prohibiting poverty. Many times, she makes a point to fully address the audience in the form of promises almost like a diary. In the vignette called “Bums in The Attic”, Esperanza expresses her hunger for a better life. She states how she wants to have her own, fancy house not owned by anyone but her. While expressing her ambitious dreams, Esperanza makes a thoughtful promise to the reader to not forget her close community on Mango Street. Esperanza states, “”I won’t forget who I am or where I came from” (87). Esperanza uses the word “won’t” – a very strong and promising word. The word “won’t” shows absolutely no hesitation whatsoever about her promise to not forget her community on Mango Street. The word “forget connotes how Esperanza doesn’t want to leave anyone behind. By promising not to “forget” anyone from Mango Street and to not “forget” herself, Esperanza promises she will never lose sight of the hardships her neighbors and family have suffered in their impoverished lives. Esperanza also highlights the word “am” and “from” to show how if she forgot her community on Mango Street, she would lose sight of herself. By promising she won’t “forget” her character and where she’s “from”, Esperanza explains the relevance of her culture and community on Mango to her character.
In the last vignette of House on Mango Street, Esperanza concludes her message to the reader. In her thoughtful goodbye, Esperanza ponders the importance of her culture and her house on Mango St. In the vignette called “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes”, Esperanza expresses how although she often gets embarrassed by her impoverished community, she must start to accept her culture instead of wishing she could pick and choose it. Esperanza states “What I remember most is Mango Street, sad red house, the house I belong to but do not belong to” (109-110). Esperanza explains how even though she often refuses to belong to Mango Street, she genuinely does belong there and she cannot change that. This significant realization shows how Esperanza ultimately believes she does belong in her community. Esperanza uses the word “most” when describing the houses she can remember. Mango Street has left a lasting impression on Esperanza and she addresses it to the reader showing her true gratitude for the place. She uses the word “belong” twice when referring to her relationship with Mango Street. She states that she does in fact “belong” to Mango Street but often refuses to explicitly say it. All characters have different facets of their life that they “belong” to. Esperanza explains that she “belongs” to Mango Street to express how it has shaped her character and identity. The sense of belonging Overall, Esperanza’s concluding vignette shows a massive shift in how she views her life on Mango Street.
By the end of House on Mango Street, Esperanza has thoroughly debated the importance of her culture and heritage. In the last vignette called “Mango Says Goodbye sometimes”, Esperanza concludes by explaining to the reader why she tells stories. She speaks about how someday she will leave Mango Street because the binds of her poverty and lower socioeconomic class keep her there forever. In a triumphant final declaration, it seems as though her big dreams could cost her the culture of her neighborhood. However, after declaring her ambitious dreams and her triumphant battle against poverty, Esperanza states, “They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out” (110). The conclusions of stories like Esperanza’s play an important role in the main takeaway of the entire book. The fact that Esperanza’s last line states that she will come back to her community on Mango Street and not leave anyone behind, shows an ultimate feeling of gratitude in how her family and friends on Mango have helped her find herself. Esperanza uses the word “back” to promise that she will not leave forever and will not cease to exist in the eyes of her friends and family. Her use of the word “for” shows almost a dedication of her message to “those who cannot out”. Esperanza declares a promise to the people not fortunate enough to escape the impoverished neighborhood.
As many adolescents do, throughout her story, Esperanza heavily questions many different aspects of her life. She complains about her poverty, questions her culture and importance of her friends and family. All in all, Esperanza’s life may not be ideal for her, but ultimately, as she progresses and develops as a character, she notices facets of her life that worthy of her gratitude, mainly her impoverished neighborhood on sad and dull Mango Street in Chicago. At the end of House on Mango Street, the reader questions many things as to what her future may bring but one thing is for certain: With Esperanza’s maturing and development came a deep gratitude for her home on Mango Street. Coming of age often comes with a loss of innocence. Interestingly, Esperanza realizing her gratitude for Mango Street exposed her to knowledge about her culture that she never had before. At the beginning of House on Mango Street, Esperanza overlooked the bad things that happened to her and her friends in her neighborhood, like the poverty, the assault, the cruelty and disrespect. After maturing and fully devloping as a character, Esperanza began to comprehend her gratitude for Mango Street. Once she had come of age, she stopped overlooking the faults of her neighborhood and accepted them for how they contributed to her character. By accepting these imperfections of Mango Street, Esperanza had a loss of innocence; often a critical component of coming of age.”