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The House on Mango Street
A is for A Great Father
Sally’s father is extremely disliked by Sally because he doesn’t allow her to talk to boys. If she does, he whips her with a belt until she’s black and blue. In reality, he was probably abetting Sally to reach the American Dream life. In Mango Street, several women are trapped because of men, usually husbands. Her father is afraid that if Sally talks to boys, and marries someone, she will face the same fate as the other women. Sally’s father wants Sally to live a free, happy life. He wants her to decide what she wants to do, without any men interfering. This is the truth about Sally’s father; he wants Sally to live the American Dream life. A great father. A great misunderstanding.
B is for Bad House
Esperanza lives in a bad house. It was small and red, with petite windows and a miniature garage. Bricks were crumbling, and the door took quite a bit of force to open. In addition, there was only one bedroom and one bathroom. Her whole family wanted the American Dream; to have a big, comfortable house. However, they didn’t have enough money. A nun even teased Esperanza about her house! Especially after this, Esperanza is determined to work towards the American Dream herself, and get a job and a big house when she grows up. She wants to show the world that this childhood home won’t identify her for the rest of her life.
C is for Canteen
In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza is really willing to go to the canteen. She thinks it is a great place to be in, and only special kids get to go there. Finally, though, when she gets there, she realizes there is nothing special about that place. In fact, she realizes that the place isn’t great at all! The sandwich is greasy, and the rice is cold. Esperanza now faces coming of age. All Esperanza learned that she always has to decide for herself, and not let rumors guide her life. Yet, she had to talk to the principal, cry, and have a horrible lunch to really understand that. But now that she has learned the lesson, she won’t have to suffer from the fact anymore.
D is for Describing People
Esperanza’s descriptions of people show that she is on her way to come of age, but not quite there yet. In other words, Esperanza wants to be described by her personality, not her name and appearance. This shows coming of age, as it takes maturity to really look into what people are, instead of stopping at the surface. Yet, this girl describes others by their appearance. For example, she described her own family by their hair, and she describes a family by their feet in the chapter “The Family of Little Feet”. This shows that Esperanza is slowly coming of age, as she knows people shouldn’t be described by their appearance, but she’s still not applying that to herself.
E is for Esperanza
Esperanza Cordero is the main character in the book, The House on Mango Street. She clearly demonstrates that she’s coming of age by showing her interest in The American Dream. Esperanza shows that she doesn’t want to belong to her old, worthless neighborhood. This girl wants to create her own future with her own hands. She wants nothing to get in her way except her own wishes. Esperanza shows coming of age by proving her will to live her life and to buy her own house. As you can see, Esperanza’s early and special interest in the American Dream proves that she is coming of age. This is a mournful part of coming of age, as she knows a wrong decision has its consequences, but can also be joyous; no one can affect her life except herself.
F is for Fine-looking Shoes
Esperanza, Rachel, and Lucy have great fun with the free, beautiful, high-heeled shoes they received. They try them on, show off in them, and walk around town. It seemed great, until a drunken man offered to pay a dollar if Rachel kissed him. Finally, the trio ran away, but not before learning that coming of age could be mournful. For the whole time, they had been thinking beautiful things were great and perfect, but now they know everything has its negatives. They know that even having a beautiful house may have negatives, and that is huge shock (not that they don’t want a nice house).
G is for Goals
In The House on Mango Street, several characters make goals to live the American Dream. To begin with, Esperanza wants to be rich, with her own house. Thus, she tries to get a job, and tries to write as often as she can. There is also Mamacita, who wishes to be free to live wherever she wants and follow her religion. She is trying to train her son to follow her culture, so he can set her free. Alicia struggles to live her own life, and escape from her father’s clutches, and Sally has similar hopes, too. Therefore, Alicia goes to college and studies hard, and Sally commits to rebel against her father hanging out with boys when her father doesn’t notice. All these characters commit/make goals to be free and live the life they want, to live the American Dream life.
H is for Heritage and Culture
The American Dream is to generally be happy and free, with home and wealth. Yet, a factor that is entrapping several is their heritage and culture. Esperanza went to a fortune teller, Elenita, who predicted her future. If a fortune teller was even surviving, it meant that she was making money because people visited her, and the town was superstitious. This meant that it was possible that a person close to success was held back due to superstition. For example, Mamacita could’ve gone out and made friends with everyone. Most likely because of her will to keep her heritage, she stayed at home and got scolded. As you can see, several people could’ve been happy and free, and lived the American Dream life, but got held back due to their heritage and culture.
I is for Independent
Esperanza shows that she is coming of age by slowly making her own choices. In the beginning, she wants to change her name to Zeze the X. This was a bit immature, but accurately reflected how she wanted to belong to no one but herself. Later on, she started making more mature independent decisions. For example, she chose not to laugh at Nenny when she was singing a ridiculous song because Nenny was her sister. Whether or not Esperanza realizes it, she is coming of age because of her independent decision-making.
J is for Joy
Esperanza wants joy. As of now, she is satisfied with the little joyous moments she gets with her mother and her friends. Yet, her real joys lie within the American Dream. To be truly joyous, (not only Esperanza, but the whole town) she wants to be free, not bound to 4006 Mango Street. She wants her own job, one that she chooses, so she can buy a house also that she chooses. As you can see, despite the little joys everyone dwells on, the true joy for all, the life everyone wants to live, is the American Dream life.
K is for Kiss
Esperanza got a job of matching up pictures. This shows coming of age, as first jobs are rites of passages. During her afternoon break, though, an old man asked for a kiss because it was his birthday. Without much hesitation, Esperanza agreed, thinking he was just a kind, old man. But before, Esperanza was about to kiss the old man, he kissed her, and wouldn’t let go. This shows that Esperanza is coming of age because this is really her first kiss she has given outside of home. First kisses are a rite of passage, even though Esperanza may not really consider it as a first kiss.
L is for Louie’s Cousin
Louie’s cousin once came in a “great big yellow Cadillac with whitewalls and a yellow scarf tied around the mirror…” (Cisneros 24) It was a luxurious car, with comforts beyond anything Esperanza had ever imagined. However, it had turned out the Cadillac was stolen, and thus, Louie’s cousin was arrested. This was probably coming of age for all Louie’s little sisters, and perhaps Esperanza, too. None of them have ever had such luxuries, as they lived in Mango Street and were poor. Louie’s little sisters also had never seen someone getting arrested. Whether or not they understood it, watching Louie’s cousin getting arrested was a new experience, and a rite of passage. Now that they now you can get arrested, they are coming of age.
M is for Mango Street
Mango Street is the home of Esperanza’s family and many others. It is a relatively poor neighborhood, with several trapped people. Also, it is a place where people are striving to reach the American Dream life more than other places. Several women in this neighborhood such as Marin, Sally, and Minerva are longing for freedom, while others, such as Esperanza, want wealth and a better home. Yet, though everyone has high hopes, many people have lost hope in their goals. They’re wishing, but not working hard enough to reach freedom and happiness, the American Dream life.
N is for Numerous Children
Rosa Vargas is a mother of too many children. Her husband just left her without a note and without any money. Therefore, she is stuck with her out-of-control children. She is trapped with them, and among those who want the American Dream life. This is also coming of age for Esperanza. Never has she seen so many children with just an exhausted mother to take care of them. She will want to make sure as not to follow Rosa’s footsteps when she goes up. This is a somewhat joyous part of coming of age for Esperanza, as she knows for sure she won’t make the same mistake and suffer from it. Also, she knows her entrapment isn’t nearly as bad.
O is for Opportunities
Esperanza is slowly finding more and more opportunities to make friends. Before, she was moaning and groaning that she was being teased, and not willing to try to make new friends. Now, though, she has matured a bit, and is willing to go out there and try her luck. She shows this by eagerly paying five dollars to Rachel and Lucy, when she didn’t know if she could trust them. Esperanza, at that point, had more self-esteem, and tried her best to make them her friends. This shows she is coming of age because she is learning to have faith in herself, and to take a swing if she thinks she has an opportunity.
P is for Papa Cries
Esperanza always thought that her father was very brave. Because of society, she thought that men never cried, especially her brave papa. However, all that changed one night when he started mourning in the middle of the night for his father, who passed away. Esperanza, who had never seen her brave papa cry, was very shocked. This was coming of age. Now, Esperanza finally realized that it was not only women who cried, but everyone who felt upset. She learned that crying was universal, and anyone who felt sadness, including her brave papa, was free to express their feelings. Still, this is a mournful part of coming of age; she has seen the impact of death on her beloved father.
Q is for Queen of Cats
Cathy is a girl who has innumerable cats. Yet, she is very lucky. Her family, unlike others, didn’t have to work very hard to reach the American Dream life. Since her family was distantly related to the queen of France, she inherited a part of the queen’s wealth. Still, Esperanza is also going to live the same life because of her writing skills, though maybe not so grand. The difference between the two is Cathy has gone forever (she won’t come back), but Esperanza is willing to live the American Dream life, get a home, and come back and help the others live the American Dream life. Esperanza will now have lived the real American Dream life; she will feel peaceful at heart after freeing the others, having done a good deed.
R is for Ruthie
Ruthie is one of Esperanza’s friends. Because of her disability, her mental development has slowed considerably. Therefore, she acts a bit immature, still enjoying childish games and activities. She lives with her mother, Edna, as she doesn’t have a husband or house. Yet, she shows she is coming of age. To Esperanza, she says that she does have a husband and she does have a house. This shows she is mature enough to realize that she will never have either things, but feels ashamed to admit it. For Ruthie, this is a mournful part of coming of age; she knows she can’t do anything with her future.
S is for Shame
Shame. It played a major role in Esperanza's mother's life. Esperanza's mother was close to reaching the American Dream. Unfortunately, though she had brains, she was ashamed of her clothing and appearance. Thus, she quit school, and narrowly missed out on living a better life; a life with a better house and better comfort. Luckily, Esperanza has now learned a lesson of not letting your appearance and/or shame get affect your life. Of course, learning a lesson also means Esperanza is coming of age. In this case, it is joyous to have come of age, as Esperanza now knows that only she cares about her looks. Therefore, even if she didn't have good looks, as long as she ignored shame, her chances of success are high.
T is for Trees
In Esperanza’s neighborhood, there are four trees which don’t belong there. They had to grow through concrete, which was no easy task. At the end, though, they reached the sky, and keep reaching. These trees are the perfect examples of what type of life Esperanza wants to live. Right now, she is going through her first stage; breaking through the concrete. Soon, though, she will reach the sky, too, and live the American Dream life. She will be free to do whatever she wants, by a home, and live the life she wants.
U is for Understanding and Accepting
In Mango Street, a few women, such as Mamacita, Minerva, and Rafaela, are not only trapped, but also hopeless. This is their key mistake they make in life. Their life ambition is to reach the freedom piece of the American Dream. Yet, to even begin to reach there, they must understand and accept that life isn’t going to get better all by itself. They must work, argue, and take daring steps to reach their goals. If they understand and apply the fact that when “One door closes, another door opens…” (Alexander Graham Bell), their futures will stand a better chance, and they will see the light of the American Dream life in their dark lives. The tables always turn, and their chance will come. They just have to be watching for that chance, which is a key concept all humans can use to succeed once they understand and accept it.
V is for Victory and Loss
Esperanza has come of age when she experiences an important lesson; no one always wins and no one always loses. Before Esperanza moved to Mango Street, and right after Esperanza moved to Mango Street, she was feeling distraught, as if her life would never get better. She had nuns teasing her, along with an embarrassing house, her name being teased and pronounced incorrectly, and more. At this time, Esperanza was losing. Soon after moving to Mango Street, though, her life prospered. Esperanza made several good friends, and learned several important lessons. Of course, once in a while, she had a hard time (like in the canteen), but that’s part of not always winning. This is a joyous part of coming of age for Esperanza. Now she knows that no matter what, she will have tough times, and she would have to cope with that, but also that the tables always turn; her time to shine will come. She will no longer be too worried about her losses, and will start to move on with life.
W is for Writing
Esperanza is trapped. She needs something to free her from her situation; something that will get her past the “concrete base” and into the sky. Esperanza needs something to push her to reach the American Dream. That’s when her diseased Aunt Lupe helped out. Being a writer herself, she suggested to Esperanza to become a writer. Thus, to reach the American Dream, and to get a home, Esperanza became a writer. With her writing skills, she can write several books, sell them, and come back to free “the ones who can’t out” (Cisneros 110).
X is for Xenophobia
To begin with, xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreign, which is a good word to describe Mamacita. Mamacita is a kind woman in general, but because the man who brought her here is forcing her to speak English and be Christian, she is starting to hate America and English (both foreign to her). Generally, if you are brought to one bad place, you tend to think that all other places except your home could be as bad or worse. Thus, you can conclude that Mamacita is a partial xenophobe. The reason for this hatred is because her son denies Mamacita the American Dream. He denies her the right to do whatever she wants, and be free to live her life. Now, Mamacita hates just to enter the world outside her house.
Y is for Young Troubles
Alicia is one of Esperanza’s friends, and she is trapped. Alicia has tussles at a comparatively young age. She has struggled by the death of her mother, and her father forces her to do all the household tasks. Alicia goes to college, and has her plans to reach her goals. This girl hopes to find a job, and settle somewhere where she can do anything as she wishes without her father’s disturbances. Alicia’s ambition in life is similar to most Americans; she wants to live the American Dream life. Alicia, like everyone wishes to be free and happy, with a home and job.
Z is for Zeze the X
Esperanza doesn’t like her name because people pronounce it as if it’s made of tin. Furthermore, her grandmother, who was also named Esperanza, was carried off, and trapped by the window for the rest of her life. This girl didn’t want to inherit her grandmother’s place, though she inherited the name. She wanted a unique name, preferably Zeze the X. This shows Esperanza is coming of age. She is willing to create her own future, “inventing for herself what she will become” (Back Cover) instead of letting her name define her.