“The House on Mango Street”
“The House on Mango Street” is influenced by Sandra Cisneros’ cultural values. Cisneros’ narrates her life through short poems told by our narrator Esperanza, each relating closely to one another. Esperanza observes the struggles of some Chicanos/as who wish to keep their culture alive while striving to live productive lives within the American culture. This novel shows how Esperanza struggles to become part of a world that isn’t Mango Street. Her struggle demonstrates the desire that many Chicanos have to move on beyond their community. This novel also deals with the Latin community and it’s gender roles.
Esperanza’s community serves as an example of Latino communities in America. Her identity is interwoven with the identity of the neighborhood. In “Those Who Don’t,” Esperanza considers the stereotypes and fears that others have of Latinos and vice versa. “They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives” (Cisneros 28). Esperanza explains that whenever someone from “another color” go through their neighborhood they put a fear in them, that they are dangerous, and that they’ll get hurt. “All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight” (Cisneros 28). Those fears that others have towards them are the same fears that Esperanza’s community feels when they go through a neighborhood of another color.
In “No Speak English,” Mamacita paints her walls pink in order to remember the colorful appearance of her house in Mexico. “… a pink house, pink as hollyhocks with lots of startled light. The man paints the walls of the apartment pink, but it’s not the same…” (Cisneros 77). I think this part demonstrates how those who migrated to the U.S. feel home sick and try to adjust their lives to be similar to the one they had in the country they originated in. “¡Ay, caray! We are home. This is home. Here I am and here I stay. Speak English. Speak English. Christ!” (Cisneros 78). Mamacita risks losing her identity if assimilates, like her grandson, into the American culture. We often see this, we see people losing interest in their customs and little by little they lose a little bit of that culture.
Religion also plays a role on “The House on Mango Street”, it holds a powerful position in the lives of Latinos. It builds a sensor of right and wrong. In the chapter “A Rice Sandwich,” guilt is established. Esperanza wants to eat at the canteen for lunch, but the nun basically laughs at her because of where she lives. “That one? she said, pointing to a tow of ugly three-flats, the ones even the raggedy men are ashamed to go into” (Cisneros 45). At this point it had been twice that Esperanza had been victimized by nun because of where she lived, but this time she cried because she was embarrassed.
Esperanza offers the reader an insight into the lives of some of the female characters. One of the most endured themes of this book are gender roles. She is not a big fan of the gender roles that keep the women in her community oppressed. She explores the dynamics of women’s lives within a society that is dominated by males. The conditions of females are predetermined by the economic standards that have been placed. In the hispanic culture it’s traditionally linked with different gender roles for women and men. Usually the primary role for men is economic protection and for women it is to be a housewife.
Most of the female characters in the novel have internalized the male viewpoint. They believe that it is their husbands or fathers responsibility to care for them and make decisions for them. These constraints are too powerful to overcome. Esperanza does not want to become like other women, she doesn’t want to depend on a man and be stuck under a man’s authority. “Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own” (Cisneros 108). She desires to leave Mango Street a have a house of her own, remaining independent is an act of rebellion and a source of power.
In today’s society these gender roles have changed a lot throughout the years. Women depend less on men then they did before. Even Though gender roles have changed women are still not treated as equal. Women still have to fight to get equal pay, they have been fighting for this for years because they might do the same job that a man does but they will get payed less.