Free Study Guide for The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros|
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FREE STUDY GUIDE FOR THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET
This chapter continues Esperanza’s ambivalence about growing up. She
uses the high-heeled shoes to transform her body, making her legs look
long. But at the same time, she seems to think of them like candy, describing
one pair as lemon-colored. As soon as she is confronted by the reality
of what the shoes can do (“bum man’s” interest in Rachel) she becomes
frightened and is ready to take them off.
Esperanza wants to eat lunch in the “canteen,” where kids eat if their
homes are too far from school for them to eat at home. She asks her mother
to write her a note and make her a sandwich. At first Mrs. Cordero refuses,
but finally she gives in, and makes Esperanza a rice sandwich. But when
she gets in line in the lunchroom, a nun tells her she must get permission
from the Sister Superior. Esperanza goes to her office, and the Sister
Superior tells her her house isn’t far enough away for her to stay for
lunch. She asks her which house is hers, pointing out the window, asking,
“That one?” Esperanza nods, even though it’s the wrong house, and even
uglier than her own. She starts to cry, and the nun lets her stay at school
just for that day. She goes to the canteen, which is “nothing special,”
and eats her lunch, crying, while the other children stare at her.
The chapter is titled “A Rice Sandwich” to emphasize Esperanza’s inability
to shake her feeling of dependence on her family, even when she tries
to escape it by eating with “the special kids.” Her attempt to be grown-up
backfires when she is unable to convince the nun to let her eat regularly
in the canteen, and she feels foolish. In fact, she allows herself to
be associated with houses that “even the raggedy men are ashamed to go
into” because she is too afraid to tell the nun which house is hers. The
fact that the canteen isn’t even worth all the trouble makes her feel
even worse. This is the first example of real bitterness and sadness in
the book’s tone: there is nothing whimsical about the way this chapter
is related. It simply tells a painful story quietly and plainly, without
even any solemnity to give it a sense of importance: it is not a tragic
story, but rather a pathetic one, dealing with Esperanza’s feelings of
shame and foolishness.
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. 09 May 2017