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



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FREE ONLINE NOTES FOR THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET


CHAPTER ANALYSIS / STUDY NOTES


CHAPTER 19: Chanclas


Summary

Esperanza’s mother comes home with boxes of clothes to wear to a party celebrating her cousin’s baptism, which is held at a nearby church basement. Her mother has forgotten to buy Esperanza shoes to match her dress, so when she gets to the party she sits self-consciously, trying to hide her old shoes and refusing to dance, even when a cousin “by first communion or something” asks her. Then her uncle tells her how beautiful she is and drags her onto the dance floor. He teaches her some steps and then brings her to the middle of the room, where they dance together, everyone watching, and Esperanza is especially conscious of her cousin who had asked her to dance, and how proud her mother is to be her mother.

Notes

Esperanza’s grappling with maturity continues in this chapter, where she demonstrates that she is able, if pressed, to be confident and graceful even when she feels self-conscious about something (in this case, her shoes). She is thrilled by her mother’s positive reaction, and made almost dizzy by the attention of her cousin: “all night the boy who is a man watches me dance. He watched me dance,” she says. While the interest of older men makes her uncomfortable, she seems to thoroughly enjoy that of her cousin.




CHAPTER 20: Hips


Summary

Rachel, Lucy, Nenny and Esperanza jump rope, improvising about what it means to have hips: what they can be used for, where they can take you, etc. Esperanza, who has been talking to Alicia the university student, explains that hips make room in women’s bodies for babies. Rachel suddenly begins to rhyme as she jumps, and the other girls follow suit, singing nonsense, half-rhyming songs about hips. When it’s Nenny’s turn, she jumps in and starts singing a standard jump rope song, not listening when Esperanza tries to explain the game to her.





Notes

Another aspect of Esperanza’s continuing maturity is revealed here: the changing way in which she relates to Nenny. In earlier chapters, she attributes Nenny’s impetuousness or naïveté to her stupidity. Here, she claims, “[Nenny] is this way because of her age,” and “she is in a world we don’t belong to anymore.” Though she is still disgusted with Nenny’s unwillingness to play along with the group, and feels self-conscious in front of her friends, Esperanza seems to have gained some perspective about her sister.

The rhymes the girls sing as they jump evolve effortlessly from their conversation. Though they may be uncertain about what their future as women holds--perhaps the reason they sing about hips in the first place--they combine the mature subject with silly songs easily, and their imaginations are clearly strong.




CHAPTER 21: The First Job


Summary

Esperanza gets a job to help pay for her Catholic high school, because her father says only bad children go to public school. She plans to get a job similar to those her friends have, at a dime store or hot dog stand, but one day her Aunt Lala tells her she’s found her a job at Peter Pan Photo Finishers. She simply has to match negatives with their photos, but she feels nervous being around so many adults. Later in the day an old man comes in and begins his shift, telling her he will be her friend, and she doesn’t feel so uncomfortable anymore. But then he tells her it’s his birthday and asks her for a birthday kiss. When she leans down toward his cheek, he grabs her face, kisses her on the mouth, and won’t let her go.


Notes

If “Hips” demonstrated Esperanza’s ability to confront her nervousness confidently, supported by her friends, “The First Job” reminds the reader that things are not always so easy. At first, she is unable to calm down at work, even though everyone is friendly to her. Then, when she finally finds someone she feels comfortable with, he suddenly surprises her by acting in a frighteningly inappropriate way. Esperanza is still a child, inexperienced and naïve. One gets the impression that her reaction to the kiss is one of embarrassment and fear, rather than the anger that an older woman might feel. It is therefore interesting that Cisneros ends the chapter with the kiss, choosing not to reveal Esperanza’s precise reaction.

 

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