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

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THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET LITERARY ANALYSIS


BOOK REVIEW / ONLINE NOTES


CHAPTER 29: Four Skinny Trees


Summary

Esperanza feels close to the four trees the city planted outside her window. Like her, she says, they are skinny and don’t belong there, but also like her, they are strong and willful. They grow through concrete. “Their strength is secret.”


Notes

Esperanza’s self-knowledge is clearly increasing. She identifies herself, in a completely abstract way, with the four trees. Interestingly, she says they stay strong because they “never quit their anger,” a facet of Esperanza herself which has become more evident in recent chapters, including “Geraldo No Last Name.” When she was younger, she felt mostly fearful of the outside world. She contrasts herself with the less mature Nenny as well. Nenny sleeps through the planting, not seeing the meaning in the trees that Esperanza sees.




CHAPTER 30: No Speak English


Summary

Mamacita is a very large woman whose husband has brought her and their child from Mexico to Mango Street. She never leaves her apartment, and refuses to learn English, pining every day for Mexico, to the disgust of her husband. Then her baby boy sings a Pepsi commercial he heard on TV, and Mamacita becomes hysterical, crying, “No speak English!”


Notes

This chapter, like “Geraldo No Last Name” is about the Mexican immigrant experience. It is notable that neither Geraldo nor Mamacita have a good experience in America. Mamacita’s size and brightly colored clothing make her seem too exotic for Mango Street, imprisoned in her American life, though she remains distinctly un-American. Her voice reinforces this when she sings Spanish songs, sounding like a seagull, or when she cries out hysterically: she is like a beautiful caged animal.




CHAPTER 31: Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut and Papaya Juice on Tuesdays


Summary

Rafaela is a young woman married to a man who keeps her locked up when he goes out, because he is afraid she is so beautiful she’ll run away from him. She dreams of dancing, and asks Esperanza and her friends to buy her a coconut or papaya juice, which she retrieves with a rope she throws down from her window.




Notes

Rafaela, like many of the women in “Mango Street,” is forced to forget her own dreams because of her husband. Like Alicia, the girl who sees mice, she has many good characteristics--she seems intelligent, ambitious, and spirited--but each of these is countered by her dependence on her bullying husband. Thus, she becomes like a fairy tale, like Rapunzel, when she lowers a paper bag for the children to put sweet, flavorful drinks in. These drinks are clear symbols for the life Rafaela would like to have, and surely could have, if not for her husband. We are never told exactly why these women stay with their husbands or fathers, which seems to implicate them in their own misery, because we are left to assume that the reason they stay is simply that they cannot imagine living in any other way, despite their dreams. Their loyalty--or, sometimes, their fear--prevents them from realizing their independence.




CHAPTER 32: Sally


Summary

Sally is a beautiful girl who wears perfect, Egyptian-looking makeup and has no girl friends, since she got into a fight with her best friend Cheryl. Now she has no one to giggle over boys with. Esperanza does not want to believe what the boys say about her, or that, like her mother says, for Sally to act so grown up is dangerous. Esperanza empathizes with Sally, who has to remove her makeup and change her clothes before she gets home, and can never go out. She wonders whether Sally would like to leave home forever. She says she understands that all Sally wants is “to love and to love and to love,” to “dream and dream,” and she doesn’t blame her.


Notes

Sally, like Marin, is a dreamy, overly mature girl who seems destined for trouble. Like Marin, her main problem seems to be the gap between what she wants to be and what her culture and family want for her. Esperanza admires her exotic appearance, and wants Sally to teach her how to dress and wear makeup. The entire chapter is written in a pleading, childlike tone, as Esperanza tries to understand and emulate Sally. Esperanza wants Sally’s maturity, but she doesn’t understand how complicated that maturity can be.

 

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