The House on Mango Street
No, this isn’t my house I say and shake my head as if shaking could undo the year I’ve lived here. I don’t belong. I don’t ever want to come from here.
Summary: “The Three Sisters”
Lucy and Rachel’s baby sister dies. The neighborhood gathers in Lucy and Rachel’s house to view the baby before she is buried. Three of the guests are old aunts. Esperanza finds them fascinating and thinks they are magical. The sisters can tell that Esperanza is uncomfortable at the wake and call her over to talk to her. They compliment Esperanza on her name and tell her she is special and that she will go far. They tell her to make a wish, so Esperanza does, and then they tell her it will come true. One of the women takes Esperanza aside and tells her that even though she will be able to leave, she should come back for the others. She has guessed Esperanza’s wish, and Esperanza feels guilty for wishing for such a selfish thing. The woman tells her she will always be Mango Street.
Summary: “Alicia & I Talking on Edna’s Steps”
Esperanza is jealous of Alicia because she has a town to call home, Guadalajara, and she will return there someday. Alicia observes that Esperanza already has a home. But Esperanza shakes her head. She does not want to have lived in the house for a year, or to come from Mango Street. She declares that she will never come back to Mango Street until someone makes it better. Then Alicia asks who will make it better, suggesting the mayor as a possibility. The girls laugh because the idea of the mayor coming to Mango Street is so far outside the realm of possibility.
Summary: “A House of My Own”
Esperanza describes the qualities and parts of her ideal house: picturesque, not belonging to a man, flowers in front, a porch, and her shoes beside the bed. She describes the house as safe and full of potential, “clean as paper before the poem.”
Summary: “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes”
Esperanza defines herself as a storyteller. She frames the story by saying she is going to tell the audience a story about a girl who did not want to belong. She repeats the paragraph from the first chapter about having not always lived on Mango Street, naming the other streets she has lived on. The house on Mango Street is the one she remembers the most. When she writes about it, she is able to free herself from the house’s grip. She knows that one day she will pack her books and writing materials and leave Mango Street, but she will have left only to come back for the others who cannot get out on their own.
The old women’s palm reading at the wake differs significantly from Esperanza’s earlier visit to the fortuneteller Elenita. This time, fate seems to have sought out Esperanza: The sisters call to her, whereas earlier Esperanza pursued Elenita. Though Esperanza doubted Elenita’s prediction, she is now more willing to believe in an external source of wisdom that may not have a logical explanation. More important, while Elenita used Tarot cards to predict Esperanza’s future, the sisters read the future in Esperanza’s own hand, which seems to make the prediction more personal. Esperanza has not yet left Mango Street physically, but she is already gone spiritually, and the sisters sense this. They encourage her to be faithful to the experiences that have shaped her and sympathetic to those who lack her abilities and her will to escape. They want her to accept herself for who she is, including her name. The three women resemble the three Fates from Greek mythology, who spin a string for each human’s life. One spins the thread and controls birth, the second measures and spins the events of the human life, and the third decides the moment of death and cuts the thread. Like the mythological Fates, these three women seem to know Esperanza’s destiny just by looking at her. The women’s relationship to these mythical figures gives their advice to Esperanza more weight.
Although she does not say so, Esperanza, like Alicia, realizes that if Mango Street is ever to improve, it will have to be through the efforts of people like her who escape, become successful, and then return. Esperanza spends time with Alicia at the end of The House on Mango Street, instead of with Sally, who has married and dropped out of middle school. Alicia is pursuing her own form of escape by working hard to attend college, and she has not married. Although Alicia has a difficult family situation, she has not turned her back on her roots. Instead, she is doing what she can, the hard way, to make an eventual change. Alicia provides the final step in Esperanza’s escape from Mango Street: she instills in her a sense of responsibility to who she is. Rather than trying to be someone else or to escape through someone else, as Sally did, Esperanza needs to work with what she has and eventually come to terms with her roots. Even if she leaves it, Mango Street can be incorporated into her future home.
As The House on Mango Street draws to a close, we see that little tangible change has taken place in Esperanza’s life, although she has matured physically and emotionally. After her traumatic experiences as Sally’s friend, Esperanza returns to her original, less dangerous best friends, Lucy and Rachel. She has spent a year in the neighborhood, and no physical signs suggest that she is anywhere near actually leaving. However, the emotional groundwork for her escape is in place, and she has already found one method of escaping: writing. Writing has proven therapeutic, even lifesaving, for Esperanza. It is her “home in the heart,” which suggests that Elenita’s reading of the Tarot cards was accurate after all. The same sensitivities that made Esperanza so vulnerable to being hurt by the hardships of life on Mango Street have also enabled her to escape it spiritually through writing. Although she will live in the neighborhood for a few more years, she has reconciled herself to it. She will write her own narrative of life on Mango Street, and when she does leave the neighborhood, she will write somewhere else.
The last two sections of The House on Mango Street, “A House of My Own” and “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes,” exhibit language that, though less mature than many other sections, is highly poetic. The first paragraph of “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes” consists of repetitive, Dr. Seuss-style rhymes and rhythms. Esperanza’s thirteen-year-old written voice comes through here. She has been narrating the story all along, but now she is writing it. This shift explains why the voice seems to be less mature in these final sections—this voice is actually Esperanza’s young but burgeoning written voice. Esperanza’s story is about a girl who did not want to belong. By writing this, Esperanza has made an important realization: she does belong on Mango Street. Both Alicia and the sisters help Esperanza come to this conclusion. Esperanza is not on Mango Street by mistake, as she would like to believe, but because she belongs there, at least for now.