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Critique Essay on The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street is a novel written by Sandra Cisneros and published in 1984.  Sandra Cisneros not only used an original form of writing for her novel but also managed to deliver the message of the novel effectively.

Esperanza Cordero is a twelve-year-old Latino girl who lives in Chicago, in the poor neighborhood, in the house on Mango Street. She develops emotionally and physically through the novel, which covers a year of her life (Bloom 98). She begins to write in order to express her ideas and to not be suffocated by the poor neighborhood in which she lives. When Esperanza reaches puberty, she becomes interested in boys. At the carnival, Esperanza gets sexually assaulted by a couple of boys. Before that, an older man at her first job made her kiss him on the lips. All these experiences resulted in her desire to leave the neighborhood. However, Esperanza understands that she will never be able to abandon Mango Street, and makes a promise to return and help those women, whom she leaves. Esperanza understands that Mango Street is not the place which holds her; it is the place which gives her freedom. 

The novel explores gender roles and problems connected to gender (Angel 67). Esperanza observes different women and sees which gender roles they are forced to play. For example, when Alicia’s mother died, she had to take care of her younger sisters and brothers. Even though Alicia wanted to study at the university, she had to replace her mother and begin to constantly clean and cook. Rosa Vargas does not have the opportunity to do the things she wants to because she has many children, who occupy all her time. Minerva is fighting with her husband all the time. Rafaela is trapped inside of the house; her husband does not allow her to leave the house because he thinks that she is too attractive. Sally’s father buses her. Thus, all she wants is to marry and escape from home. She marries an older man, who does not let her leave the house on her own and does not let her have guests. These observations make Esperanza decide to be independent and work on her writing instead of spending time on boys.

The author raises the issue of self-identity in the novel. Esperanza is in the search for herself (Bloom 71). She is a female, she is a Mexican, and she comes from a poor family. She plays different roles in the society; however, the most important thing about her is that she is a writer. What her life will be like depends on her. Esperanza’s dreams, plans, and hopes for the future are symbolized by the idealized house. Parents promise Esperanza that one day, she will live in a house with a beautiful green yard, new pipes, and staircase. The house on Mango Street was small and had a poor appearance, and it was not the house Esperanza dreamed of. Her writing is the only thing that can help her have the dream house.

In the novel, Sandra Cisneros used vignettes as the small parts of the whole novel, through which Esperanza narrates her life in a present tense. Each vignette conveys the impression of Esperanza about another characters, objects, ideas, or places (Angel 49). Esperanza talks about her daily experiences and reveals her observations. The novel does not have a strict chronological narrative because each vignette can be referred to as a separate story. In some vignettes, Esperanza mentions characters, which she introduced in the novel previously. The characters which are being mentioned by Esperanza multiple times serve as the tying bond between the vignettes, which unite them into a bigger story. For example, Esperanza tells several stories of her neighbors. These stories enable the reader to see the full picture of her life and to understand what influence the neighborhood had onn Esperanza. The vignettes which are narrated only by Esperanza throughout the novel make the story highly intimate. A reader can feel that ideas and things, which Esperanza reveals in the vignettes, are highly important to her. The fact that the main character of the novel is also the narrator of the story significantly shortens the distance between the reader and the narrator and makes the novel more personal.

The feeling which the reader gets from the novel depends on the way Esperanza expresses her attitude in each specific vignette. In some vignettes, Esperanza is hopeful, while in the others, she expresses her thoughts form the pessimistic point of view. For example, when reading the lines, “I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn't it. The house on Mango Street isn't it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go” (Cisneros 11), the reader can feel that at the moment, Esperanza does not believe that things will ever change for her and that she will get what she wants. The problems mentioned in the vignettes by Esperanza are not resolved completely. The future of people in the vignettes is unpredictable, and the characters do not know what is going to happen to them in the future. It makes the story realistic because in real life, people do not have a solution to every problem as well as their future is uncertain and depends on the decisions they make.

To conclude, The House on Mango Street is a novel written by Sandra Cisneros. The writer used vignettes, which are narrated by the main character, in order to deliver the message of the novel in the best possible way. Such form helped the writer to establish a close bond between the narrator and the reader. Such issues as the search for one’s identity, gender roles, and coming of age were raised in the novel.

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