Sometimes it is difficult to live through the travails of what life has to offer for all of us. For some who are unlucky, they have to go through numerous trials and tribulations in order to survive the rigors of poverty, dysfunctional families and societal problems. However, when we learn to see the bright side of everything, we will realize that all these bitter and difficult experiences in life can be beautiful and meaningful for us. Without these, we would not attain success or learn about our mistakes that make all of us better and stronger people.
As a quote from Sandra Cisneros’ The House on the Mango Street (1989) goes -- “Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it”, this means that we can all live through seeing things as beautiful and essential. What is important is that we value the things that we have and it is up to us to make our lives better than what we deserve.
Sandra Cisneros’ The House on the Mango Street weaves a thought-provoking, coming-of-age tale of a young girl. She is not only struggling to grow up to become a fine lady like usual American girls, but she is faced with shame, guilt and disappointment as her family is embarking on to acquire a new home in America.
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As the story comes to a full circle, the readers would inevitably commiserate with how the girl dealt with the scenarios she had faced. She did not only have to go through the complicated journey with her family to their new home, but she has to deal with the big disappointment that their new house is not what she hoped for. These difficulties definitely fanned some fire inside her – to become more determined and strive harder in the future. In the end, readers could predict her utter frustration why things are always tough for immigrant people like them in America.
In the story, Esperanza’s family has to undergo an awkward transition of looking for a permanent place to live. Readers will immediately infer that the young girl’s family has Chicano roots because the girl enumerated the members of the family in beginning her story -- Papa, Mama, Carlos, Kiki and Nenny.
What’s admirable about Cisnero’s conversational style of story-writing is that everyone can relate to their experiences. At one point in anyone’s life, we all can identify with the travails of going through a house transfer. Anyone’s initial reaction will be to feel excited of how our new house will look like or who our new neighbors will be. Unfortunately, for the young girl, she is bound to be betrayed by her own expectations.
When Esperanza’s father announced that they are getting a new house in Mango Street, she expected that it will be in the usual American neighborhood with homes that have freshly-mown lawns and white picket fences. For the Esperanza, Mango Street is more than street sign -- it is her marker that circumscribes the dream that she and her family had brought with them. This new house will simply be one aspect of attaining their dream -- to have a more comfortable life in this new place, in this new country.
However, when she saw the house in Mango Street, she was disappointed. She becomes aware of her own subjective perceptions as she begins to differentiate her family’s wonderful dreams and society’s ugly realities. Thus, she becomes conscious of her parents’ inability to fulfill their promises of the perfect house. She thought that “They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house” (p. 223). However, the “real house” the narrator expected would be “like the houses on TV”
Apparently, when the narrator saw the house on Mango Street, it transformed from being a symbol of hope to become a symbol of poverty. The narrator associates this realization with the humiliation she has felt in the past, when her family lived in similar places. However, Esperanza realized that she can go beyond her expectations and she could make herself a better person, despite her roots and the community she’s living in.
Esperanza began seeing all the positive things around her to make her a stronger person. You can be poor but you still can do good in your studies and excel to become a successful lawyer. You can be a Latina and not get pregnant to become a young mother, but you can strive to achieve your dreams of becoming a great artist someday. Thus, in the story, we can learn that there is beauty in everything that we have. It is just up to us to use these things wisely to make the best out of it.
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Books, Inc. 1989.
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