The House on Mango Street is a book written in the first persona, illustrating the difficulties of living in the United States as an immigrant. Written through the eyes of a young Spanish speaking girl named Esparanza; she explains the challenges that she faces as a female in a society that is male dominated and where people of her race are seen as inferior.to her, Mango Street becomes a thorn that pricks her in the flesh as she observes so many things she wishes to first run away from but then decides to stay and help change the situation. Esparanza is a writer and this makes her to be quite observant of her surroundings and the way in which people are living.
There is power in the English language and there is also power in being a man along Mango Street. Lack of knowledge of English by her parents makes Esparanza miss out on many opportunities. Her mother even though a native English speaking woman is not able to write proper English enough to convince the teachers at Esparanza’s school that she does deserve to be in that school. Instead of walking out and learning English, her mother chooses to simply hide behind closed doors and window blinds.
The first thing she notices are the systems of gender and race that are in place to limit women in the society. Mamacita is a wonderful woman, a mother and wife but she never leaves her house, she sits at the window and looks outside with admiration at the other people as they go on with their daily activities. She is unhappy and she represents failure on part of women. She cannot go outside to interact with other people as she does not know how to speak English and is afraid of trying something new.
Her fear makes her to be unhappy. She is also not happy when she hears her child try to speak English as she believes that they will not be able to communicate properly and she will lose the child to the rest of the society that has not accepted her. As a woman she also puts up with irresponsibility from her husband simply because she feels like she has no option but to stay there and be unhappy.
As a woman of color there are more challenges for Esparanza to overcome including ones that have been accepted and tolerated by her own society; the people along the Mango Street. They have embraced captivity of the mind as they seek to live just as they are and not change anything. The women in the society do not seek to teach their daughters to set higher goals and standards. This makes Esparanza to seek to change her name so that she cannot be related to such medieval thinking and to run away from her past that is filled with poverty and uncertainty.
Another theme that runs in the book is that of defining sexuality. One has to understand sexuality and embrace it before anything else; this becomes a bone of contention for Esparanza as she seeks to understand her role in the society versus the societal expectations. Sally, one of her friends is a true definition of the societal expectations in terms of defining sexuality. She has accepted that she is a woman and can use her beauty to pleasure the men in the society. Sally dresses seductively in high heels, short skirts and applies a lot of makeup which in turn makes her to attract attention.
Esparanza seeks to have beauty just like Sally, conversely she want her beauty to have strength so that’s she can be able to protect herself and other women from male dominance. Sally’s beauty does not benefit the society as she does not even know how to take care of her friends. While at the carnivore with Esparanza, she leaves her alone and goes to play around with the boys, this is followed by a horrific experience by Esparanza who is assaulted by some boys.
Becoming gender is a challenge for Esparanza who finds herself in the battle of a battle that she doesn’t seem to see her victory. At first she thinks that changing her name will be the solution to all her worries and problems, she quickly realizes that it is not. She then turns to beauty but realizes that beauty comes together with vulnerability and women in her society will never rebuke boys for assaulting girls or for misbehaving. The boys in this case are allowed to get away with anything. Esperanza then realizes that she has to shape the curve of her own life, she uses writing to keep her spiritually and mentally free. She realizes that women do not look after each other and she seeks to change that aspect. This is after she realizes that the people of Mango Street suffer from captivity of the mind that makes them to live unhappy lives as free people.
The more Esparanza observes, the more she knows the language and this knowledge empowers her, gives her power to overcome the weaknesses that are functioning in her society. She struggles with defining herself without much assistance from the adults who were close to her. Her aunt is the only raw of hope in her life as she encourages Esparanza not to quit from writing but instead to turn it into the one thing that sets her free; free from the confines of the Mango Street that wanted to turn her into an unhappy mother and wife in the future.
Esparanza in the end realizes that what she yearns for more than anything is self -independence and that is the reason she wishes to have her own house. Torn between being herself and doing right by her community, Esparanza writes about what she doesn’t like and seeks to change and what she hopes to achieve: this is the only way to keep her sanity. She starts by seeking to change her past but learns that a name change will not suffice.
She moves on to forming relationships with men by becoming beautiful and embracing her sexuality, this she discovers does not bring her true independence, finally she decides to help change the lives of the people in Mango Street. She embraces their culture and seeks to empower young girls like her small sister to become better than wives who hide and watch people from their windows due to fear. To teach young men to be more responsibility, she also learns that her newly fund freedom comes with responsibility to her society.
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