The House on Mango Street is a novel written by Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros. Cisneros depicts the life of a twelve-year-old girl, Esperanza, who within a year transforms into a woman. She outlines Esperanza’s life as she grows hips, starts to be curious about boys, evolves emotionally, and suffers sexual assault. In The House on Mango Street, Cisneros uses the recurring theme of maturity to illustrate Esperanza’s transition from adolescence to womanhood.
Throughout the vignettes of the novel, Esperanza overcomes several hardships which cause her to grow up quicker than she should. At a young age, she feels ashamed of everything she was given such as her hair and even her name. She frequently feels very different from her family. For example, in “Hairs” she says “And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands” (Cisneros, 6). She is constantly comparing herself to her family. More than just her looks affect her feelings on the differences between her and her family. She views her name as just “a muddy color” and compares it to “songs like sobbing”(Cisneros 10). This displays Esperanza’s insecurity while being a young lady trying to identify herself. The people she continuously surrounds herself with are growing much quicker than she is. In the chapter ‘The Family of Little Feet’, Esperanza has one of her first encounter with males noticing her. In this chapter, she puts on high heels to take a walk around her block, and with these heels, Esperanza gains more confidence in herself. Esperanza’s new sprout of confidence is shown as she brags, “Down the corner where the men can’t take their eyes off us. We must be Christmas” (Cisneros 40). Many would see the problem with little girls talking to older men in the street however, Esperanza was stuck in the moment and her friends did not see the negative outlooks of the situation. As the book continues this event takes effect on her in the long run when she wants to change her appearance. This new found confidence she felt at the moment will stay with her forever as she continues her journey with boys.
Esperanza then begins to want to change physically as a woman. In the chapter of ‘Hips’ where she talks about having hips and how it would “let you know which skeleton when it was a man and which a woman’s”(Cisneros 50). She is looking at things most kids wouldn’t look at. One of her biggest role models is Marin, gets the attention of most boys and knows how to get them to do what she wants. At a young age, Esperanza wants that for herself. Surrounding herself with girls who are older affect the way she wants life to happen for herself. Reality kicks in and she gets a job. In “The First Job” she gets her first kiss in the oddest way possible. She was confused as well the novel says, “I thought I would because he was so old and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go”(Cisneros 55). As she matures there are a lot of bumps on the way.
Yet sometimes change can be for the better. In “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired In The Dark” Esperanza has to act like the older person because of what is going on around her. She changes emotionally and matures for the better. In this chapter, her grandfather dies and she tells herself that she “… will have to explain why we can’t play”(Cisneros 57). She is bringing it upon herself to be strong for her father. Esperanza is even comforting her father the way she never did. This chapter seems to be a major emotional breakthrough for Esperanza. The many deaths Esperanza has come face to face with has shaped her into a young woman. Her Aunt Lupe dies and before that happened her aunt had given her some advice which she just now learns to understand. She is realizing herself how precious life is. Staying on the page of experience, Esperanza is noticing things much more quickly than usual. She notices her friend dealing with a case of domestic violence. Esperanza describes it like this, “A girl that big, a girl who comes in with her pretty face all beaten and black can’t be falling off the stairs. He never hits me hard”(Cisneros 92). Esperanza, no older than 13, sees the things her friends are going through, which is not typical of her. In “Red Clowns” she has a similar encounter with a man. This time it hit harder than ever before. She was abused sexually and felt abandoned by her friend. In “Red Clowns” Esperanza says “Sally, you lied, you lied. He wouldn’t let me go. He said I love you, I love you Spanish girl”(Cisneros 100). This quote makes it seem that Esperanza was in a situation she didn’t want to be in. The many hardships that she faces changes her into who she soon becomes and the man in this chapter changed her for the worst.
These obstacles have matured Esperanza whether she liked it or not. Towards the end of the novel, she expresses “They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones, I left behind. For the ones who cannot out”(Cisneros 110). Esperanza has grown to see the world differently as she transitioned into womanhood. She has changed socially, physically, and emotionally. Yet, she is optimistic and will come back for the ones she loves.