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Key Facts

Key Facts

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.

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