novel’s heroine and narrator, an approximately twelve-year-old Chicana
(Mexican-American girl). Esperanza is a budding writer who wishes
for a home of her own. The House on Mango Street
a year in her life as she matures emotionally and sexually. The
name Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish.
in-depth analysis of Esperanza.
Rachel and Lucy
- Esperanza’s best friends. Rachel and Lucy are Mexican-American
sisters who live across the street from Esperanza. Lucy, the older
sister, was born in Texas, while Rachel, the younger, was born in
Chicago. Esperanza eventually chooses a more sexually mature friend,
young girl Esperanza befriends the same year she moves to Mango
Street. Sally is the same age as Esperanza but is sexually bold
and seems quite glamorous to Esperanza. She is not a good friend
to Esperanza, abandoning her time and again to go off with boys.
She has a physically abusive father and runs off before eighth grade
to marry a man who won’t let her see her friends or leave the house.
Esperanza feels protective of Sally.
in-depth analysis of Sally.
little sister. Nenny, whose real name is Magdalena, is
a pretty, dreamy little girl for whom Esperanza is often responsible.
Since Nenny is immature, she is often a source of embarrassment
for Esperanza when the two of them play with Rachel and Lucy.
in-depth analysis of Nenny.
young woman from Puerto Rico who lives with her cousin’s family.
Marin spends most of her time baby-sitting and so cannot leave the
house. She sells makeup for Avon and teaches Esperanza and her friends
about the world of boys. Although she has a fiancé back
in Puerto Rico, she also dreams about American men taking her away
from Mango Street to the suburbs. At the end of the year, her cousins
send her back to Puerto Rico.
father. Originally from Mexico, Papa is less domineering
than the other father figures in
the neighborhood. He works most of the time and is rarely home.
mother. Mama grew up in the United States. She is one of the strongest-willed
and smartest women in the novel, yet she seems to influence Esperanza
very little. She is sometimes a source of comfort for Esperanza.
All of her admirable attributes are lost on Esperanza because Mama
has not escaped Mango Street to live somewhere nicer.
friend who attends a local university. Since Alicia’s mother died,
her father forces her to take over the family’s domestic chores.
Alicia is a rare example of a neighborhood girl who has not tried
to escape the neighborhood through marriage, but instead works hard
and hopes to change her life from within.
first friend in the neighborhood. Cathy’s family moves out the week
after Esperanza’s family moves in. She discourages Esperanza from
becoming friends with Rachel and Lucy. She is one of the few characters
who is not from Mexico or Latin America.
characters in order of appearance
Carlos and Kiki
- Esperanza’s younger brothers. Carlos and Kiki appear
infrequently, and Esperanza explains that they live in a different,
new resident of Cathy’s house. Meme’s real name is Juan, and he
has a dog with two names.
eldest sibling in a Puerto Rican family that lives in the basement
of the Ortiz house. Louie is friends with Esperanza’s brothers,
while Esperanza is friends with Louie’s cousin Marin. Louie’s other
cousin appears once with a stolen car, only to get arrested later
The Vargas Kids
- An unspecified number of poorly
raised, vagrant siblings whose father has abandoned them. One of
the Vargas kids, Angel Vargas, dies by falling from a great height.
friendly uncle, who gets her to dance at her cousin’s baptism in
aunt. In her youth, Lupe was a vibrant, beautiful swimmer, but now
she is old, blind, and bed-ridden. She listens to Esperanza’s poems
and encourages her to keep writing, but Esperanza and her friends
mock Lupe behind her back.
witch woman Esperanza visits to have her fortune told. Elenita reads
Tarot cards and tells Esperanza that she will have “a home in the
childish grown-up neighbor who enjoys playing
with Esperanza and her friends. Ruthie’s mother, Edna, is a landlady
for the large building next door and ignores Ruthie.
Mexican man Marin meets at a dance. Geraldo dies in a car accident
the evening she meets him. Nobody, including Marin, knows anything
about him, including his last name.
overweight Mexican wife of another neighbor. Mamacita comes to America
at great expense to her husband, but she is wildly unhappy. She
never learns English and never leaves her third-floor apartment.
neighborhood woman whose husband locks her in their apartment because
he is afraid she’ll run off. Rafaela sends money down on a clothesline
to Esperanza and her friends so they can buy her sweet juices from
the convenience store.
married woman in the neighborhood who is most similar to Esperanza.
Minerva and Esperanza share their poems with each other. She is
only two years older than Esperanza but already has a husband and
two children. Her husband leaves for long periods, only to return
in a violent rage.
- A neighborhood
boy who relates to girls in violent and sexual ways. Tito flirts
with Esperanza by pushing her in front of an open fire hydrant,
and later he steals Sally’s keys in order to get her to kiss him
and his friends.
first crush. Sire sometimes stares at Esperanza, and though she
is afraid, she tries sometimes to look back at him. Sire and his
girlfriend Lois hang around outside late at night. Esperanza’s father
tells her Sire is a punk, and Esperanza’s mother tells her Lois
is the kind of girl who will go with a boy into an alley.
- A neighbor
who works nights and tries to sleep during the day. Earl sometimes
brings women home with him for short periods. The neighbors see
these women at different times, and each thinks a different woman
is his wife, but the women are probably prostitutes.
The Three Sisters
- Old ladies Esperanza meets at Lucy and Rachel’s baby
sister’s wake. The three sisters are mysterious and guess Esperanza’s
hopes and dreams. They advise Esperanza always to return to Mango
Street after she leaves it.