Sandra Cisneros’s “The House on Mango Street”
“For most people, house means a shelter, or a building for them to live in, usually for one family. House provides humans with space to enjoy their own lives. When we mention the house, we typically come up with the idea of a whole family. That is to say, the term house goes beyond the meaning of a building, and it represents a form of a family reunion. I am going to do a literary analysis of Sandra Cisneros’s “”The House on Mango Street”” and Alice Walker’s “”Everyday Use.”” Both novels mention real houses in the content, and the houses are essential to understand the plots and characters. In my literary analysis paper, I aim to focus on the effect “”home”” have on the people who live in them. Although their houses are shabby and disgraceful, they carry the hope of life and show a strong longing for “”home””. Thus, I would like to analyze and compare houses as symbols of their pursuit of a real home and the sense of belonging. Both stories talk about housing and to some extent, the housing is representing their families and memories of former life and bonding of parents and children.
First of all, the home symbolizes the characters’ basic families and memories. In the “”The House on Mango Street,”” it talks about a little girl Esperanza. She looked around the world with clear eyes and introduced the beauty of life. Esperanza dreamed of having a house of her own, of pursuing herself in writing, of gaining freedom and the ability to help others, of getting away from poverty as soon as possible, and of flying out of Mango Street. Through the story, we knew that her family’s old department was in poor condition. “”The water pipes broke, and the landlord wouldn’t fix them because the house was too old.”” (145) Esperanza dreamed of a bigger house, but the family’s financial condition could not afford a big house. They had to live in a small flat with poor condition. The little girl said that “”I knew then I had to have a house. A real house… But I know how these things go.”” (146) She knew they would not be able to buy a big house for a long time. Through her words, we got to know that she was already aware of their financial condition. Meanwhile, she remembered that “”moving a lot.”” It was a big family, and her most memory related to this family was that they always move. We could not stop asking what did she want somewhere permanent to call the house? In the content, she did not talk much about what her life be. Esperanza knew they moved a lot and lived in a poor flat because she introduced her last flat that “”It’s in much worse condition”” and then they moved to the house on Mango Street. The author utilizes Esperanza’s point of view to introduce her families and memories through their experiences of housing. We can infer that it is a beautiful wish for a little girl to live in a bigger house. However, the words which come from a naïve narrator tend to lead people into deeper thinking. The child’s mind is pure, and her world is more like a picture which is directly shown to her. Her words are full of longing for a beautiful life, which makes readers sympathize the experiences of minority groups.
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From the perspective of “”Everyday Use,”” the home in this story represents a turning point of the relationship between Dee and Mama with Maggie. The mother in the story had two daughters Maggie and Dee. The scenery at the beginning was that a mother with Maggie was waiting for Dee’s returning to home. However, Dee returned with a new identity, and she claimed that she had changed her name to get rid of her heritage and legacy. (152) For Dee, mother, and Maggie, returning to the house means a return to the past or their young memories. An essential part of the house was the yard. Mother’s yard represented a private space, which did not penetrate the regrets and shortcomings of her life. The yard linked events and recording actions. The yard was carefully prepared for Dee’s arrival. Mother was sensitive to every detail of the yard’s appearance. She and Maggie made wavy patterns in the soil when they were sorting out the patio. Mother praised the comfort of the yard and compared it to a spacious living room. In many ways, mothers preferred patios to closed houses. The outdoor was a free place, while the interior of the house provided constraints and discomfort. The intense discussion about who got the quilt took place inside, where various objects inspired Dee’s desire to reconnect her past. By contrast, a yard was a happy place, a place to avoid mother’s regrets. For her and Maggie, the yard evoked a sense of security, where they could exert little control over their environment. The house was once burned, and Maggie was hurt in that fire. This accident marked the breaking of the relationship between Mother and Dee. Dee used to express her dissatisfaction to the condition of the old house, but after the fire, she had the reason to leave the past to find her ideal life. There was a significant difference between the opinions of Mother and Dee toward home. Dee considered the home as a physical shelter, and she pursued the superficial function of a house that it is better to live in a luxury house. But differently, Mama was eager for the family reunion. Although the house was old and shabby, it was the home for parents and children. Mama pursued the real home with family and warmth, not the separation with her daughter. She was very disappointed with Dee’s performance. Maggie played the role of a pure child, and she did not show many complicated emotions. Readers could feel her purity and gain real hope for the family reunion. Mama and Maggie were always longing for a real home where they belong.
Moreover, the home represents the bridging of parents and children. Esperanza wants to move into a spacious house. Her use of words like “”temporary”” (146) and imagining living in a bigger house. Esperanza is a little girl who is a naïve narrator. She does not have an understanding of what parents do to improve their lives, and she only informs the readers that she is disappointed and upset.
The home also represents the dreams and aspirations. Beyond the content on the book, “”The House on Mango Street”” reflects the social status of Latin American immigrants at that time. The people in this community are getting more and more complicated. The difference a little girl felt in other countries immediately stimulated her. Different races and colors suddenly awakened her racial consciousness. Esperanza finally realized that there was severe racial discrimination in the “”white society,”” which was why white people avoided Mexicans immigrants on Mango Street. Even if they did a lot of hard work, it would be hard for them to get rid of the status of the people of color and poverty and then sit with the white people around them on an equal footing. Esperanza always dreamed of moving out of Mango Street, and it is her dream of no discrimination and being independent in society. We may ignore the voice of a little girl, but it reflects the miserable life of immigrants. Every aspiration deserves respect, even from a little girl.
In “”Everyday Use,”” the home reflects the life of poor African Americans. In history, African Americans experienced too many discriminations and unequal treatments. They worked hard and protected their traditions carefully. The quilt in “”Everyday Use”” was perfect proof for the heritage of tradition. The quilt was a symbol of Mama’s family and a strong connection among different generations. Maggie and Dee’s grandmother and mother were the people who were the inheritors of this quilt. Dee regarded herself as the appropriate user of the quilt. However, Mama did not think Dee would appreciate their family’s tradition. Dee’s mind was out of the home, the love for the whole family. In contrast, Maggie was a kind girl, and she knew the real meaning of the quilt. In Dee’s words, “”You just don’t understand.”” “”Your heritage.”” (158) It was ironic that Dee thought her mother did not understand what heritage means. The “”home”” wanted to tell people pure love among family and mutual understanding.
Esperanza in “”The House on Mango Street”” and Mama with Maggie in “”Everyday Use”” are striving for their ideal “”home””. The “”home”” is a sense of belonging. It seems that they are eager for the real house, but the spiritual home is what they want. Esperanza represents the life of immigrants, while Mama and Maggie represent the life of poor African Americans. They are minority groups in this society. The concept of “”house”” is not only a simple shelter for them, because they experience many struggles and inequalities. They cannot live a prosperous life like those upper-class people, and they have to work harder to get an ideal life. The characters in both stories are on their way to find a sense of belonging, a real home for those who are wandering everywhere but cannot find a peaceful place. The “”home”” is a physical house with the company of the family. But in my mind, I prefer to call the home as a harbor for boats to take shelter from the wind, the mother’s embrace when a child is frightened outside returns home, and the comfort zone where you don’t have to think about the complexity of society. A real home deserves all the graceful words in the world.
In conclusion, the home in both stories represents not only real house with families and memories, the bridging of parents and children but also the intense longing for the actual home. The real home is where the heart belongs. People spend the whole life to find a sense of belonging, especially for immigrants and African Americans in the two stories. “”The House on Mango Street”” and “”Everyday Use”” emphasize the variety of “”home”” to depict family picture, showing respectful dreams and aspirations.”