Sandra Cisneros’ "The House on Mango Street" - The search for identity as a woman and as a writer

Seminar Paper, 2006

12 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Short summary

3. The major characters of the story
3.1 Nenn y
3.2 Sally
3.3 Alicia

4. The search for identity
4. 1 As a woman
4. 2 As a writer

5. Conclusion

List of Literature

1. Introduction

In the following text I would like to give an approach to the identity of the protagonist Esperanza Cordero in the novel “The House on Mango Street”. I will start with a short summary of the book. In part 3 I will take a closer look on the characters in her environment that coined her most during the stay on Mango Street. Part 4 finally will occupy with Esperanza’s identity, on the one hand as awoman and on the other hand as a writer. In part 5 I will sum up my results and draw a conclusion.

2. Short summary

The novel “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros consists of various loosely connected short stories or vignettes, as she has called them. It is a so called “coming-of-age” novel that shows the sometimes hard and sometimes funny life of poor Chicanos and Hispanics living in a “barrio”. The story is told through the eyes of the main character Esperanza Cordero, and even though there is no traditional chronological order, her “empowerment and will to overcome obstacles of poverty, gender, and race”1 represents the plot.

In the beginning of the novel, the Cordero family moves into a new house, the first one they have ever owned, on Mango Street. Esperanza is disappointed by the ramshackle house which is absolutely not the one she had dreamed of when her father told her about the new house they would move into. “As the new girl on the block, Esperanza observes many of life’s most joyous and harsh realities while meeting her Mango Street neighbors.”2 For example there is Rafaela, a woman who is locked-up by her husband because he thinks that she is too beautiful and will run away when he is not at home. Or Sally, who is a good friend of Esperanza, whose father hits her very badly, but still she doesn’t leave home and denies the physical violence that her father uses on her. These destinies open Esperanza’s eyes to the problems and hardships which youths growing up in such neighbourhoods have to cope with.

In the course of the story Esperanza discovers her own nascent sexuality. She gets excited when the boys on the street stare at her, but soon her illusions of true love are destroyed by incidents of sexual violence. She gets raped by an older boy and sees so many women unhappy in marriage. She realizes that marrying a man in order to escape is a way that, as seen in various examples, doesn’t work. But since she knows that she must leave Mango Street the only way for her to do so is to become a writer.

Even though she constantly reaffirms that it is her strongest wish to leave Mango Street, we learn by the end of the novel that this plan is not quite possible. She cannot completely cut ties with Mango Street since it has influenced her to that extend that it has literally become a part of her that she cannot easily erase or forget. It was there where she learned valuable life lessons and there it was there where Esperanza found her own true identity. At the end of the novel she finally realizes that because it was her who was able to leave, it is now her duty to come back and to help them who were not so lucky or strong to leave.3

3. The major characters of the story

3.1 Nenny

Magdalena or Nenny is Esperanza’s little sister and her every day companion as it is not unusual for little brothers and sisters. Although Esperanza has also two brothers, Carlos and Kiki, they do not seem to play such a big role to her as Nenny does. As her older sister Esperanza nurtures and protects Nenny. In the story “Boys and Girls” for example, Esperanza feels that she is responsible for her sister grwoing up in a good way: “She can’t play with those Vargas kids or she’ll turn out just like them.”(Page 8) In the beginning Esperanza gives the impression that she does not like her little sister with statements like: “She is just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them…”( Page 8)

However in the course of the novel Esperanza realizes that she and her little sister have more in common than she had thought of. She says that even though both girls do not look very alike they have certain unmistakable characteristics in common: “Nenny and I don’t look like sisters…not right away. (…) But me and Nenny, we are more alike than you would know. Our laughter for example.” (Page 17)

It is quite understandable that having a smaller sister always being around her is sometimes frustrating for Esperanza. She is indulgent when she tries to make her little sister, who is obviously a child, see the world like she does and “She is a world we don’t belong to anymore. Nenny.”(Page 52) clearly shows that Esperanza realizes that she and her sister are in two different stages of maturing. But still Esperanza shows signs of admiration “for the hard little bone, my sister”. (Page 52)

She admires “her strength, independent character, and innocent lack of self consciousness.”4 In my opinion Esperanza really loves her sister and I think the connection to her is closer than to any other character in the novel.5



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Excerpt out of 12 pages


Sandra Cisneros’ "The House on Mango Street" - The search for identity as a woman and as a writer
University of Bamberg  (Lehrstuhl für Anglistik)
Chicano Literature
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
530 KB
Cisneros, Chicano, House on Mango Street, Hispanic, Female identity, weibliche Identität
Quote paper
Dipl. Germ. Florian Wenz (Author), 2006, Sandra Cisneros’ "The House on Mango Street" - The search for identity as a woman and as a writer, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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