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“The House on Mango Street” Book by Sandra Cisneros


The House on Mango Street is a novel by Sandra Cisneros and tells the story of a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero who is brought up in a Chicago neighborhood full of Chicanos and Puerto Ricans. Residents in this neighborhood are so impoverished and full of social ills; everyone in Esperanza’s family sleeps in one room, men abuse young girls, and husbands and fathers do not treat their children in a humane manner. Esperanza has an unwavering desire to leave her poor Latino neighborhood.


The book begins with Esperanza recollecting her life on the Mango Street and the persons she met while staying there, although her family lived elsewhere, she pictures Mango Street as the most important place she resided in; it represents her legacy and upbringing. She talks about all the people she had met and experiences with them, including her small sister, Nenny. She comes across Cathy, a wealthier girl who makes her hate her home and she eventually moves out when conditions become bad. She makes friends with Sally, a neighborhood girl from a devout family, Sally is abused by her father and later escapes from her home and is married before clearing her education.

Esperanza and Nenny make friends with Lucy and Rachel who were siblings, with whom they share many exciting activities. She also becomes friends with Alicia, a girl who is scared of rats in her residence and later discusses her poetry with Esperanza.

She gets to know about boys through the inhabitants of Mango Street, the other people she gets to meet are Marin, Elenita, Rafaela and Ruthie. As she meets these people, Esperanza attempts to fit into their lives, and as she grows older, discovers that the neighborhood and house she desires to leave are not bad. Her three sisters tell her not to forget where she came from, this makes her realize that she will move away from Mango Street. However, despite the looming travel plans and stories she tells, Mango Street will never forsake her.

Major Characters

Esperanza Cordero

Esperanza is a young Hispanic girl residing on Mango Street with her large family and is ashamed of her residence, frequently wishing that she could have her own house far from the ghetto neighborhood. She meets various people while growing up and these represented her neighborhood and also influenced her in growth. She feels different from the other residents of this street, loves poetry, and wants to guard those that she loves. She is courageous and comprehends the fact that there is a greater world beyond the neighborhood, nevertheless, she exhibits empathy for those close to her.

Esperanza has a penchant for putting down her experiences and apprehends that even if she breaks free from this life for a better one, she will never forget her youth, her background, and Mango Street.

Through Esperanza, we are able catch short yet clear sights of other characters.


Nenny is Esperanza’s small sister and a frequent companion, her name is short for Magdalene and provides company to her sister during her different adventures and experiences on Mango Street, making new friends and learning new things. Due to her tender age, she is unable to understand the world as Esperanza does. Esperanza says “Nenny is too young to be my friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them and sometimes they come like Nenny” (Cisneros 10).


This is Esperanza’s mother and is atypical Latino mother whose life is characterized by marriage, family, and traditional female roles. She functions as a housewife and has control over her family, she is depicted as a martyr, forfeiting her own needs for the sake of the family. She has great aspirations and wishes for her daughters and views education as the ticket out poverty. We learn of her superstitious nature when Esperanza says, “My mother says I was born on an evil day and prays for me…” (Cisneros 58).


He is Esperanza’s father and is depicted as a man bearing the weight of his family in providing for their needs. We see his vulnerability to Esperanza when he awakens her to inform her of his father’s death and requests her to tell the news to her other siblings while he heads to Mexico for the burial.

Rachel and Lucy

Rachel and Lucy are sisters, Lucy being younger. Rachel has trouble uttering English phrases. The sisters give company to Nenny and Esperanza during their various escapades before Esperanza grows into puberty and spends time with Sally.


Sally is a beautiful girl who is in Esperanza’s class and comes from a very religious background, in rebellion, she wears short clothes and wears make-up that make her look like an Egyptian Queen though this is revealed to be due to her abusive father. Eventually, she runs away from home to marry a salesman before clearing her eighth grade.

Minor Characters

Minor characters in this novel include Cathy, a wealthier girl who later moves away from Mango Street after it got bad, Kiki and Carlos, Esperanza’s younger brothers, Meme, Louie, Marin, Alicia, Darius, Elenita, Geraldo, Edna, Earl, among others.


Concept of Home

Esperanza considers their house merely as a place she lives in and not a home. This stems from the fact that when she was young and frequently moving between apartments, her parents promised her an actual home with all the comfort that come with it.

Women being Trapped

Esperanza is just one of the few female characters who is not trapped in one way or another. Most of the other females live in seclusion, trapped. Rosa cannot undertake any meaningful tasks for herself as she has too many children with no man to assist her, Alicia is trapped in the kitchen and has to cook and clean for her siblings after the death of her mother, Sally is mistreated by her father and eventually runs away from home, Rafaela is trapped by her husband in the house as he thinks she is too beautiful to go out.

A Difference

Esperanza carefully observes the struggles of Latino mothers who wish to maintain their traditional roles but still aiming to have productive lives in America. She gives the accounts of the women in grimy details, going through their beliefs, traditions, and the perception of whites towards them and their struggles to be free from poverty. Regardless of these ties to the neighborhood and its people, Esperanza is determined to leave Mango Street for an improved world. She believes that one day she will have her own house out of the slums but affirms that she will come back for those unable to leave on their own.

Works Cited

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. Houston, Texas: Arte Público Press, 1981.


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