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Free Study Guide for The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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The setting of the story is a poor Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Judging from the cars people drive, it is probably the 1960ís. The neighborhood is very close-knit, full of immigrants who do not speak English well and rarely leave the neighborhood.


Major Characters

Esperanza is the young (about twelve years old) Mexican-American girl around whom the story revolves. She has just moved to Mango Street, and the entire book is about her reactions to the people and things around her, and the way those shape her as she matures over a period of one year.

Minor Characters

Esperanzaís younger sister. Esperanza cares for Nenny, though she also finds her annoying because of her dreamy, childish attitude. They often play together, and are, in some ways, closer to each other than to any other character.

Lucy and Rachel
Sisters who always appear together, they are mischievous and brash, and donít care much what other people think of them, which is why Esperanza likes them. Together, the girls have many adventures.

Mrs. Cordero
An intelligent and caring homemaker, Esperanzaís mother is disappointed in herself for not continuing with her education, because she feels she could have made more of her life. She tries to make sure her daughter does not make the same mistake.

Esperanza greatly admires her friend Sally, who is beautiful and knows how to control boys, and seems too exotic for Mango Street. But gradually, Esperanza realizes that Sally is not as independent as she pretends to be.


Protagonist / Antagonist

Esperanza, the protagonist, has no real antagonist except, perhaps, herself. The story concerns her journey to maturity. Conflicts in the story often arise because of Esperanzaís misunderstanding of herself. For example, she makes fun of her sick aunt, then realizes how much she values her auntís friendship, and feels terrible about what she has done. Her shyness is another aspect of her immaturity that forces conflict upon her: she wants to be like bolder girls she knows, who have secret meetings with boys, but does not have the courage. Additionally, Esperanza must mature enough to discover her own identity, and understand how the Mango Street she hates so much fits into her life.


The climax comes toward the end of the book, when Esperanza realizes she does not want to imitate any of her friends, opting instead to be her own person. At the same time, she meets the Three Sisters, mysterious aunts of her friends Lucy and Rachel, who tell Esperanza that she is special, and that she must return to Mango Street for the people she leaves behind once she gets out.


The resolution occurs in the very last chapter, when Esperanza internalizes the words of the Sisters and decides once and for all that she will finally find her way out of Mango Street, energized by her writing, as she has always wanted. Perhaps more significantly, she now understands the importance of returning, as a way of acknowledging her strength, and the part Mango Street plays in her identity.


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