Free Study Guide for The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros|
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THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET LITERATURE NOTES
CHAPTER ANALYSIS / SYNOPSIS
CHAPTER 37: What Sally Said
Sally confides in Esperanza that her father beats her because she talks
to boys. In public, she says that she simply falls down a lot. Sally decides
to live with Esperanza for a while, but her father comes to the house
and pleads for forgiveness, and she goes home with him. Soon after, he
beats her again, even more severely.
Since Esperanza previously revered her as an almost mythic character
(she has “eyes like Egypt”) Sally’s vulnerability is all the more poignant.
She may look like a woman, but she cannot stand up for herself. The fact
that each character is unreasonable in this chapter is reinforced by the
almost childlike way they speak. Sally, who protects her father even when
it harms her to do so, repeats, “He never hits me hard,” even though it
is clear she is lying. Her father, driven nearly insane by his daughter’s
behavior, shouts, “You’re not my daughter,” over and over, as he beats
her. Because of their inability to face reality, Sally and her father
appear to be doomed to repeat their cycle forever, something hinted at
when Sally returns home with her father when he promises never to hit
her again--and then does.
CHAPTER 38: The Monkey Garden
The garden is where the children play when they want to get away from
the adults. One day Sally is standing at the edge of the garden, talking
to boys, and though Esperanza would rather run around with the younger
kids, she approaches Sally. The boys have taken Sally’s keys and tell
her she must kiss them in order to get them back. She laughingly agrees.
This makes Esperanza uncomfortable, and she tries to stop it, but the
others just make fun of her and make her feel foolish. She runs away,
crying and wanting to disappear. She tells us it is the last time she
goes to the garden.
Esperanza is slowly realizing how different she is from Sally. While
Esperanza is content to play with the younger children, Sally has her
own game, which Esperanza does not understand. She tries to stop the game
through childish means (by hitting the boys with sticks, or telling their
mothers) but the others laugh her away, and she realizes that the old
way of doing things is not effective in this new world. This scares her,
and she (and the reader) realize that, though she would like to be mature,
she is not yet ready to give up childhood. The garden is described almost
like Eden, and it is significant that at the beginning of the chapter,
Esperanza runs through it freely, while Sally stands at its edge. Once
Esperanza encounters Sally’s game, however, she herself can no longer
return to the garden. It does not seem to belong to her anymore.
CHAPTER 39: Red Clowns
Sally takes Esperanza to a carnival, then leaves with a boy, telling
Esperanza to wait for her. While waiting, Esperanza is molested by a number
of boys, one of whom says to her, “I love you, Spanish girl.” Sally never
Esperanza is forcibly introduced into the adult world, where fantasies
are not always fulfilled. She realizes, bitterly, that sex and love do
not always mix, and that boys are not always romantic. She feels betrayed,
by Sally and by life itself. The chapter is related in a dizzy and disjointed
manner, as though Esperanza is again in the midst of those boys, looking
for a way out, feeling persecuted (“the moon that watched”) and terrified.
CHAPTER 40: Linoleum Roses
Sally gets married at the eighth grade. Her husband will not let her
go out or see her friends very often, and he has a temper, but she says
she is in love and enjoys looking at all the things they own in their
Esperanza recognizes that marriage is not a solution to Sally’s problems.
She ironically mentions the ceiling of Sally’s new apartment, “smooth
as a wedding cake.” Esperanza has begun to see marriage as a prison that
holds free spirits like Sally hostage.
CHAPTER 41: The Three Sisters
Aunts of Lucy and Rachel, the sisters are mysterious, almost witchlike.
They inform Esperanza that she is special and tell her to make a wish.
She does, and then one of the sisters tells her privately to make sure
that when she leaves, she will come back for those who cannot go as easily
as she. Esperanza is shocked that the woman can seemingly read her mind.
The sisters confirm what Esperanza has always hoped about herself: that
she is special, and that she will escape. Their words seem undeniable,
because of their magical quality. Though the conversation takes place
in a crowded home, it feels to the reader as if Esperanza and the sisters
are alone in a secret place, which lends the conversation more gravity.
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