How does Esperanza Change Throughout the Story: Transformation

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“Find Out Who You Are and Do It on Purpose” – Dolly Parton What makes you who you are? Is it your smile, your family, or your actions? What makes you feel like a member of your community? We can all answer these questions differently. If you pay attention, these questions are often directed toward the protagonist found in children’s literature. Throughout the works we explored in this course, a number of themes were discussed. One theme in particular that I feel dominated a majority of the pieces is finding belonging and identity within your society.

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By exploring this theme in different contexts, we can get a better idea of the personal goals of each author.

Rediscovering Identity: Lessons from “A Christmas Carol”

First, let us look at Charles Dickens’ novella, “A Christmas Carol”. Dickens tells the fictional story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser who needs to be taught a ghostly lesson. Scrooge is met by the spirit of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet To Come. The author does an excellent job of developing an understanding of childhood when the Ghost of Christmas Past presents Scrooge with a glimpse of his younger self. He’s shown his childhood friends, full of joy and merriment, one Christmas long ago. Dickens writes, “The jocund travelers came on; and as they came, Scrooge knew and named them every one.

Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them? Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went past? Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry Christmas…” Scrooge is immediately taken back to a time when things were much simpler. Dickens effectively develops the idea that childhood is a time of carefree happiness. Children find their identity and belonging in their joyful experiences with their friends, something Scrooge lost touch with when he grew up and started to put his personal gains first. By losing his sense of belonging in his society, closing himself off, and putting his identity in his wealth, Scrooge’s self-concept becomes corrupt. The fact that Dickens made his novella a fictional story supports the theme of finding belonging in society. By showing Scrooge his past, what people around him thought of him, and his future, Scrooge is forced to see his selfish identity. He realized he lived completely for himself and needed to start helping others in his community, or else likely face an eternity of suffering.

The way Dickens created these mythical “Ghosts of Christmas” makes his writing much more effective. Additionally, the setting of “A Christmas Carol” influenced the author himself as well as the theme. During the era in which this story was written, times were very hard. Dickens came from a poor family and wrote “A Christmas Carol” very quickly in order to make some money. Children were often neglected, and the poor were ignored. Dickens wrote his novella to show the wealthy how their selfish actions close them off from society and will likely result in an unpleasant afterlife. Dickens shows that identity in your community during this time period was solely based on showing love and compassion for one another. I think that Dickens’ difficult life before his artistic career made him feel more strongly towards the vain members of his society, leading him to create a work that challenged their lifestyles.

Navigating Childhood and Identity: “The House On Mango Street”

Next, “The House On Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros follows the life of Esperanza Cordero, a young girl from a Chicago barrio. Humorous yet deeply profound, the author talks about growing up, understanding your belonging in society, and who you want to be. The author makes her novel a “coming of age story” – where the main character, Esperanza, is a young girl in the beginning and a teenager by the end. Seeing the barrio from Esperanza’s eyes is the author’s way of developing an understanding of childhood. Špela Grum explains this well, “Esperanza’s accounts are…very poetic and implicit in meaning, thus having a more powerful impact on reader’s ability to relate.”  As a young child, Esperanza childishly believes that changing small details about herself will change her identity and make her better. Cisneros writes, “I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the X will do.”

By the end of the story, Esperanza has a much better understanding of who she is and why she must embrace the identity she was born with. The author writes, “I put it down on paper, and then the ghost does not ache so much. I write it down, and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free” (110). The author clearly shows how Esperanza changed from disliking her identity to understanding why she needs her past to make her stronger. Esperanza’s self-concept altered when she realized that she didn’t have to be like all the other girls in her neighborhood. She can move away, get an education, be independent, and find out who she is beyond the confines of her past. “The House On Mango Street” falls into a Bildungsroman, a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the main character from youth to adulthood. The author chose this genre with the purpose of showing her readers exactly how Esperanza changes and slowly begins to understand her identity and belonging in society. The setting of the story and Esperanza’s culture are incredibly important factors that contribute to the theme as well. Esperanza lives in a low-income, primarily Hispanic neighborhood.

The year is not provided, but judging from the car included in the chapter “Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin,” it could be based on the 1960s. Esperanza is exposed to violence, uncomfortable sexual comments/encounters, poverty, and judgment. Even when a nun from her school saw her house once, she replied, “You live there?”  It’s difficult for a girl like Esperanza to form a positive identity when she’s surrounded by a lot of disappointment. Her culture is something she finds peace in. She is bilingual and has a strong relationship with her family. Cisneros makes her theme so much stronger because even though a lot of girls with Esperanza’s background go down destructive roads, Esperanza is determined to be stronger than that. Cisneros also grew up in a similar neighborhood as Esperanza. I think the author was motivated to tell a similar story to her own. Many people who grow up in rough neighborhoods (especially women) don’t challenge themselves to work their way up and find their identity beyond their upbringing. Cisneros wanted to show that even though this is difficult, it’s possible.

Spiritual Anchoring and Identity: William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience”

Next, William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience” talks about finding your identity in a spiritual aspect by having a strong relationship with God. Blake also develops an understanding of childhood by talking about their Innocence that, unfortunately, cannot escape the ways of our fallen world. Blake writes in his poem “The Chimney-Sweeper,” “And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark/And got with our bogs and our brushed to work/Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm/So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm” (7). Little Tom doesn’t even realize he’s been neglected by his parents. He works hard and relies on God to help him through his days. Blake shows that finding your identity in God can help you through anything. When you find belonging in the kingdom of God, your self-concept shifts from focusing on your pain to focusing on what you can do to honor Him. The Innocence of children allows them to be better than adults at doing this, and I think this is why Blake adored children so much. “Songs of Innocence and Experience” is written as a poetic piece.

The separate poems focus on different topics that work together to support his theme – your identity should be found in God. Additionally, Blake sectioned his work into two parts: “Innocence” and “Experience.” Timothy Vines writes, “…It is by having these parallel texts that Blake can respond to the decay in human values. The state of purity and childlike perspectives discussed in Innocence establishes Blake’s ideal condition for humanity. Experience was born out of the political troubles – both in England and abroad – which, to Blake, exemplified the struggle of spirit against oppression.” Separating these two texts strengthened Blake’s theme by showing the difference between seeing the world innocently and hopefully versus seeing the world for its sins. For example, in the poem “Infant Joy,” the parent (possibly the mother) is so happy to welcome their newborn child into the world.

Blake writes, “Pretty joy!/Sweet joy, but two days old/Sweet joy I call thee.” In the poem “Infant Sorrow,” found in “Songs of Experience,” the parents have completely different feelings towards their newborn child. Blake writes, “My mother groaned, my father wept/Into the dangerous world I lept.” The differences between the two sections of Blake’s work emphasize the importance of belonging to something bigger than the world and its evil ways. Also, during William Blake’s time period, children were not well protected. They were often neglected, abused, and forced to perform manual labor at young ages. These practices enraged Blake because he saw how innocent children really are; they don’t deserve to see pain so young. I think this led Blake to write his poetry with an emphasis on children and the identity we should all find in God. He believed God was the only way for adults to truly escape the sinful nature of the world.

Unconventional Bonds and Finding One’s Place: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

Lastly, Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” addresses the fact that you don’t always find belonging in conventional ways; it can be found in other places. Huckleberry Finn had no mother, and his dad was an absent drunk. Huck lived with the widow Douglas and her sister Miss Watson. The widow treated Huck like her son, but he didn’t appreciate the life she was trying to make for him. Huck ends up running away with Jim, a slave. They form an unexpected relationship along their journey. They look out for one another and find happiness in each other’s company. Jim was disrespected as a slave, but he never held this against Huck. At one point, they found an unconscious man.

Jim tells Huck to leave because it’s not important who the man is. Later, Jim tells Huck, “Doan’ you ‘member de house dat was floating down de river, en deywuz a man in dah, kivered up, en I went in en uncovered him and didn’t let you come in? Well, den, you kin git yo’ money when you want it, kasedatwuz him.” Jim takes care of Huck and is there for him in ways no one else is. The author shows that children don’t always find the most comfort in their guardians. Children need people in their lives who understand them and know what’s best for them. Huck finding his identity out in the wilderness with Jim helps him build a self-concept much different than the one he had back home. If being friends with Jim means he’s going to hell, he accepts that and decides to be a different person than everyone else he knew at the time.


Twain’s novel is a picaresque fiction, meaning the hero of the story is often dishonest but appealing nonetheless. This style of writing engages a younger audience because Huckleberry Finn’s actions are unexpected and impulsive. I think this also makes Twain’s theme stronger. A character like Huck struggles to find his place in the world. He’s sneaky and rebels against society’s expectations. However, his adventurous nature means he isn’t afraid to be different than everyone else. Huck forms a relationship with an African American and realizes Jim is the only person who ever really took care of him. For a kid like Huck to find belonging with Jim shows that identity isn’t always formed within the confines of your family. Also, during the time the story was written, slavery was common, and children of wealth were expected to get an education.

The fact that Huck goes against racial and educational norms shows that he doesn’t find belonging within his society’s expectations. This influences the theme because Huck finds his identity elsewhere. On account of the author, I think that Twain grew up in the strict culture of his time and wished he was more like Huckleberry Finn: adventurous, unafraid to step out of his expectations, and willing to stick up for what he believed in. All of these works share the common theme of finding your belonging and identity in the world. Each author effectively develops an understanding of childhood. They also explain in some way how finding your identity alters your self-concept. The genre definitely played a role in the way each author got their message across to their readers. Additionally, the setting and culture depicted in each work helped to drive the theme home. By analyzing this theme in different contexts, it’s clear that authors of children’s literature often push their readers to figure out who they are and where they belong.


  1. Blake, W. (1789). Songs of Innocence and Experience. Copy C, Plate 6. The William Blake Archive.
  2. Cisneros, S. (1984). The House On Mango Street. Vintage Books.
  3. Dickens, C. (1843). A Christmas Carol. Chapman & Hall.
  4. Grum, Š. (2014). Navigating Cisneros’s Barrio: “The House on Mango Street” as a Gateway to More Ethical Reading Strategies. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 19(2), 41-56.
  5. Twain, M. (1884). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Charles L. Webster And Company.
  6. Vines, T. (2015). Blake’s Innocence and Experience: A Historical View. Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 5(11), 113-117.
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How Does Esperanza Change Throughout the Story: Transformation. (2023, Aug 29). Retrieved from