The House on Mango Street
full title · The House on Mango Street
author · Sandra Cisneros
type of work · Novel made up of interconnected vignettes
genre · Coming-of-age story
language · English
time and place written · Early 1980s, United States
date of first publication · 1984
publisher · Vintage Books (first published by Arte Público Press)
narrator · Esperanza Cordero
point of view · Esperanza narrates in the first-person present tense. She focuses on her day-to-day activities but sometimes narrates sections that are just a series of observations. In later vignettes Esperanza talks less about herself and more about the people around her. In these sections she is never fully omniscient, but she sometimes stretches her imagination to speculate on the characters’ feelings and futures.
tone · Earnest, hopeful, intimate, with very little distance between the implied author and the narrator
tense · Mostly present tense, with intermittent incidents told in the future and past tenses
setting (time) · A period of one year
setting (place) · A poor Latino neighborhood in Chicago
protagonist · Esperanza
major conflict · Esperanza struggles to find her place in her neighborhood and in the world.
rising action · Esperanza desires to leave her neighborhood, observes other women, and finds newfound sexual awareness in her friendship with the sexually adventurous Sally.
climax · Esperanza’s tumultuous friendship with Sally leads to her emotional and sexual humiliation.
falling action · Esperanza returns to her less mature friends, understands that she does in fact belong on Mango Street, and settles on writing as her way of both escaping and accepting her neighborhood.
themes · The power of language; the struggle for self-definition; sexuality vs. autonomy; women’s unfulfilled responsibilities to each other
motifs · Names; falling; women by windows
symbols · Shoes; trees; poetry
foreshadowing · The bum’s request for a kiss; the boys’ demand that Sally kiss each of them in exchange for her keys; the description of Esperanza’s great-grandmother’s life of sitting at the window; Esperanza’s preoccupation with names and naming.