The House on Mango Street is story about a young Hispanic gilrl’s experiences and observations of her life while adjusting to a new neighborhood. The stories of this young girl, Esperanza Cordero (who was named after her legendary great-grand mother) are told in a series of vignettes that share portrayals of the lives of the people around Esperanza, and indicate how her ties to these individuals and their stories compel her to strive for the life she wants and to give a helping hand to those left behind on Mango Street.
Sandra Cisneros is the author of this unique and great piece. In this story, she takes us to the Chicago of the 1960s when many whites were moving out of the urban areas into the suburbs and an influx of Mexicans were moving in. Caught up in the hustle and bustle of moving from one home to the next, the Cordero family is the classic representation of Mexican/Latino immigrants trying to acclimate to American life in order to accomplish more success. Esperanza points out that they’ve escaped the deplorable living conditions of their previous homes and the maltreatment by some of their landlords when they moved to the red house on Mango Street. This new home is a far cry from where they came from–they owned it, didn’t have to share the space with other families, didn’t have to worry about making noise, and didn’t have to answer to a landlord. To Esperanza, it was great, but not good enough. She dreamed of that white house with trees around it and a great big yard of grass with no fence to confine it. So to Esperanza, this house on Mango Street was a stepping stone, not a final destination.
We learn from Esperanza that Mango Street isn’t just another block of residents all trying to make ends meet one way or the next. Mango Street serves as a cauldron in which hardships and rough existences are endured by several inhabitants of Mango Street. Mango Street houses victims of physical abuse–Minerva, a young mother of two who is physically abused by her husband; and beautiful Sally, Esperanza’s dear friend, is constantly beaten by her father because of her beauty which causes him to fear she will run off with some man because of it. Mango Street houses prisoners–Rafaela is literally locked into her house by her husband whenever he goes out to play dominos because he fears she will run away from him because of how beautiful she is; and Mamacita imprisons herself in her home because she is overwhelmed by the culture shock of America. Mango Street houses much more people with stories of abandonment, rape, and loss of loved ones and strangers. However, Esperanza doesn’t fail to mention the stories of hope and inspiration, like that of Marin who Esperanza looks up to, or the thrill and excitement her time with Lucy and Rachel bring, or the sense of responsibility and care that her sister Nenny challenges her to develop.
Through these brief sketches, Esperanza opens our eyes to a world where great insecurities, shame, fear and misconceptions run many of the lives of the people around her. She also manages to highlight the stories of light, hope and heroism that essentially fuel her momentum to pursue a life of success that shatters the daunting realities that people of Mango Street were unfortunately subjected to–realities Esperanza wanted to come back one day and change.