The House on Mango Street Reflection Paper
February 6, 2013Cynthia Cotto [email protected] Response Paper In the very first vignette Esperanza discusses how her family moved around a lot and even though the house on Mango Street was not the house of their dreams, it was a great achievement to own it.Although Esperanza knew they were not moving anytime soon, she recognized one advantage; her family was free of landlord management.
In my community home ownership is a constant battle and for many simply a dream.
I learn the value of home ownership in a similar sequence as Esperanza. My little sister and I were moved to and from apartment to family member’s houses until our first small home. A home with no back yard and only four stairs and side walk out front. None the less, a home to call our own; it was then that I knew one day I will own my home painted “white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. ” Setting this goal meant one thing to me, out; out of Philadelphia like out of the House on Mango Street.
How to get out and leave my home, my Philadelphia that is so much a part of my maturing process that has molded who I am today is the challenge. Poverty is the drive behind my force on getting out, like Esperanza, poverty is a constant scene that drives my motivation to rise out from my community in Philadelphia. For many families it is not unusual to live in a row home next to an abandoned home or open lot where houses use to be; look around and see no grass only concrete, see no trees only stumps of where trees use to be and garbage carried by the wind collected alongside stoop of houses.
The tricky part of growing up with this experience is realizing it molds character and influences a sense of direction. My experience in poverty directed my ambition in education therefore strengthening my chances in attaining my goals. Ultimately what was said to Esperanza by the three sisters, “You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are” is valid in the sense that no matter which path one is headed, their past is part of who they are, it is where they have been.
Even though leaving Philadelphia is a dream of mine, I know there is no other place in the world I would rather be from; it has prepared me to be brave and define what I desire for my life and what is undesired for my life. Self-exploration is hindered in this book and my life. I can very much identify with Esperanza perspectives on societal issues that Latin women face. A society dominated by men and women relying on them, whether it is a father, spouse or friend. Men are considered the strong reasonable as where women are weak and emotional, in turn women need men for protection.
A young girl may have two story paths, one where she relies on the protection of her father while she watches her mother cater to him or two, witnesses the struggles of a single young woman and absence for a father. This book describes marriage as priority for every girl or else how could she survive; appearances and physical features are highly valued traits. This attitude is not one that Esperanza agrees with, nor do I. For example, Marin she is the girl standing on the street just “waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life. This character implies that she does not dream of actively setting life goals for herself and working to earn them, instead she will wait until a man makes it happen for her. The ideology behind this thought being that as a woman she must thrive to be as attractive as possible to heighten her chances of marriage and acquire worthiness. First women are to become wives, then mothers this is to be success enough. The thought of a woman exploring her independence not only from her family but from men is not an appreciated ideal.
Esperanza mentions many women that are prisoners in their marriages and trapped in their homes due to such bias. This is an important issue and should be addressed because reflecting on Esperanza’s perspective and my personal opinion; Latin women are not encouraged to explore independence much less through education. Sally is a great example that can express my reason for writing about this issue, her father sheltered her all her life and she married before eighth grade.
Practicing those societal values leads Sally’s life to be encaged by her husband and home accompanied by nothing but the things she owns; this to which Esperanza understands that even though Sally has all the material things that her husband can buy, that is not worth much if there is nothing to do, no social interactions, or no self-respect. Esperanza absorbs her surroundings, contemplates her neighbor’s situations and visualizes her life and the thought of her life sadly gazing out of a window, this was all the motivation she needed to decide that she will not be end her story in the same manner; this I have done throughout my life as well.
Being born and raised in the heart of Philadelphia I am consistently expose to the abundance of inequality, injustice and overall hardships that seem to walk hand in hand with this territory and culture of my community. Esperanza introduces Alicia, a girl that has a strong quality in common with Esperanza as well as I; the virtue of education. Alicia’s circumstances are very relatable to young Latin girls today in my life for example, I can recall positive reinforcement when I received good grades but there was rarely any encouragement to have me participate in extracurricular activities or educations competitions because there were chores.
My family believed the transition would be easier if I did not move away for college and so I did not; I am encouraged to live home until marriage, therefore I have been. Things such as living on my own is addressed with the attitude of “why waste money, you minus well wait until you get married to move out,” but my education is my future; it is my gateway out of Philadelphia and into the path of my home with trees and grass to come home to after a day with my second grade students. With independence from my family and men is born a woman that can support herself and does not need to rely on a man.
I am writing about the inequities regarding Latin women addressed in this novel as it is connected to my life. I like Esperanza, refuse to accept the limitations surrounding me like fog in the night discouraging me to pursue new paths. Most of the women characters Esperanza describe have strong personalities yet are unable to escape from their suppressing community and culture. I am neighbors with Mothers the age of fifth-teen and grandmothers the age of thirty-two. There are women that are raising their grand-children and mothers hoping to complete high school.
Yet somehow this has become a norm it is not surprising to see a Latin woman have children at a young age as well as marriage. I personally never get tired of being asked: Do you have children? Are you married? You are in school? (in a very sarcastic tone); in that specific order. The expectations in this novel for young Latin girls are to find a man to support them and the way to find a man is through physically looking as attractive as she can and in order to become a loyal wife and mother. This is a society where a woman leaving their families to seek self-identification is not a natural thought.
Esperanza was strong enough to fight through the society norm and pursue her talent and not become trapped in a house ruled by a man. Today I fight the same battle as do many Latin women do, we are strong and it takes bravery to go after one’s happiness in life. We strive to rise above poverty and community inequities through hard work and self-dedication to one’s ambitions. As The House on Mango Street is part of Esperanza, my Philadelphia community is part of me; without what I have seen I would be blind to what I want.