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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


CHAPTER NOTES / BOOK SUMMARY


CHAPTER 16: And Some More


Summary

Lucy, Rachel, Nenny and Esperanza talk about names. Esperanza tells them that Eskimos have thirty different names for snow. Rachel counters with a story about her cousin who has many names, in English and Spanish. They talk about what each cloud looks like, describing one like “your face when you wake up after falling asleep with all your clothes on.” Rachel and Lucy start teasing Esperanza about her puffy face, and the girls begin insulting each other, half-seriously.


Notes

The girls talk in two different dreamy, whimsical ways: they come up with creative insults for each other, and they discuss what (or who) different clouds look like. All of their talk is interspersed with lists of names, mostly common ones, that suggest what the girls’ reality consists of: the names around them and the names they give to things around them. The endless string of people’s names makes it seem as though the girls’ conversation is taking place within a crowd, and they are defining themselves within it.




CHAPTER 17: The Family of Little Feet


Summary

This chapter describes the feet of different members of a family: a grandfather’s feet, fat and doughy like tamales, a mother’s feet, “plump and polite,” etc. One day, someone gives Esperanza and her friends a box of women’s shoes. The girls try them all on excitedly, admiring their legs, feeling grown up and a little dangerous. They run around the neighborhood showing off, and a “bum man” tells Rachel he’ll give her a dollar if she kisses him. She seems to consider it, which scares the other girls, who are worn out by trying to be adults. Lucy hides the shoes in her house, and when her mother finds them and throws them away, “no one complains.”





Notes

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.




CHAPTER 18: A Rice Sandwich


Summary

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.


Notes

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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