An Analysis of Sandra Cisneros' 'The House on Mango
Sandra Cisneros' 'The House on Mango Street'
Commentary by Karen Bernardo
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Some of Sandra Cisneros' short stories are extremely short, only a few paragraphs long; they are more
properly called vignettes -- sudden, surprising slices of life. They blur the line between the genres of poetry and
fiction, hinting at far more than they tell.
In the title story of her first collection, The House on Mango Street, Cisneros introduces a theme she
will carry through the whole book: the longing of the adolescent Esperanza for a place to live that matches the
person she is inside. The house on Mango Street definitely isn't it. 'It's small and red with tight steps in front
and windows so small you'd think they were holding their breath. Bricks are crumbling in places, and the front door
is so swollen you have to push hard to get in. There is no front yard, only four little elms the city planted by
the curb. Our back is a small garage for the car we don't own yet and a small yard that looks smaller between the
two buildings on either side.'
The house on Mango Street, in short, lives up to the reality of a blue-collar Latino family in Chicago, but it
is much too small and cramped and restrictive to fit the spirit of the ebullient Esperanza -- whose name,
significantly, means 'hope.' The cultural roles prescribed for a Latina woman -- marriage, children, subjugation --
are also too small for Esperanza, who feels as much at odds with her own culture as she is with the only house her
family can afford. The house on Mango Street comes to symbolize a kind of resignation, a sense of settling for less
than what you really want, and this Esperanza cannot do.
Cisneros' title story comprises only eight paragraphs plus a few lines of dialogue, yet it evocatively lays the
foundation for Esperanza's entire world -- and the reader can't wait to see what happens next.
This story can be found in Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street."
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