“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros is a true reflection of the struggles of growing up in a low income minority family. The setting of the novel is Chicago, a poor Latino and Chicano eighborhood where the narrator, Esperanza Cordero, gives an account of the hardships she encounters growing up in that environment as a young girl. In lyrical tone, Esperanza dreams of having a good life, she talks of having “house all my own” (Cisneros, 45). Their one roomed house was old and too small to accommodate the whole family. Her mother quitted school due to poverty and her friend Sally being married off at a very tender age. In this masterpiece, Sandra Cisneros accounts for the desperation and sadness that Esperanza and her neighbors, particularly women, went through coupled with the confusion of being brought up in poor neighborhood. The cases raised in the novel such as men preying on underage girls, poor housing and education, and children being mistreated by their fathers are common occurrences in low income minority neighborhoods.
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The novel is made up of vignettes put together to give an account of Esperanza and her family of six (Levine, 2). Esperanza, though a young girl, reflects the life of an aging widow who devotes her days to observing the undertakings of her neighbors. Even though Cisneros uses Esperanza in her novel, the story she gives is her own account of the struggles she encounters to learn English and get sufficient food and shelter.
There are many issues portrayed in the novel such as the struggle of young girls during their transition to adulthood, for instance, sexual harassment, acceptance by peers and family, handling their body development, and finding their place in the society and community. Some of the major themes explored in the novel include the power of language, sexuality vs. autonomy and the fight for self-definition, child upbringing and “women’s unfulfilled responsibilities to each other” (James, 1).
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