Free Study Guide for The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
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THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET ONLINE SUMMARY
This chapter is a clear contrast with the previous one, which showed
Esperanza feeling safe and emotionally bound to her father. “Born Bad”
begins with Esperanza’s rejection by her mother “my mother says I was
born on an evil day.”) The entire tone of the chapter is sheepish--Esperanza
begins by telling us how bad she feels, before she even tells us what
happened. The contrast between the maturity of her guilt--she understands
exactly why what she did was wrong--and the fact that she is still immature
enough to have made fun of her aunt in the first place, is striking. Feeling
so guilty is a turning point for Esperanza, because it makes her realize
what she valued about her aunt: her aunt understood her love of writing.
She appreciated Esperanza’s poetry. And her death makes Esperanza realize
this about herself. “You must keep writing. It will keep you free,” her
aunt tells her, and Esperanza tells us, “I said yes, but at that time
I didn’t know what she meant.” She seems to mean that, since her aunt’s
death and the shame she felt after it, she has come to understand.
Esperanza visits Elenita, a “witch woman” who lives in her neighborhood,
to get her fortune told. Elenita’s house is cluttered, with children and
dirty dishes everywhere, and lots of prayer candles. Esperanza has been
there before, and knows what to do. She puts a glass of water on the table
and Elenita asks her what she sees in it, whether she feels the cold of
spiritual presence. She doesn’t see or feel anything, but lies and says
she does. She is there to find out whether there is a house in her future.
Elenita tells her she sees a home in the heart, and Esperanza is disappointed.
She wants a new, nice, real house. “A new house, a house made of heart,”
Elenita tells her, but Esperanza doesn’t get it. She gives Elenita five
dollars and leaves.
Esperanza’s description of Elenita reveals aspects of both their characters.
Elenita seems to have real power: she understands the “home in the heart”
Esperanza is making for herself through her writing and her general thoughtfulness
and independence. Yet she also does not seem completely genuine: she lights
a candle for Esperanza for five dollars, and works out of her house while
her children watch cartoons in the background. Esperanza, for her part,
both believes in witchcraft and is very skeptical of it as well. She notices
how dirty Elenita’s house is, and seems to find it strange that her fortune
is read in a beer mug, but she believes, for example, that rubbing a cold
egg on your face will cure a headache.
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. 09 May 2017