Skip over navigation

The House on Mango Street

Sandra Cisneros

Sections 14–17

Sections 9–13

Sections 18–21

Summary: “Alicia Who Sees Mice”

Alicia is a neighborhood girl whose mother has died. She must do all the cooking and cleaning for her father. Alicia is also trying to attend college, traveling far on public transportation every day so she can escape a life of domestic toil. She stays up all night studying and thus sees the mice that come out at night. Her father gives her a hard time about her studies. He says the mice don’t exist and that a woman’s job is to get up early to make tortillas for her younger siblings’ lunches.

Summary: “Darius and the Clouds”

Esperanza complains about living in the inner city, saying there is not enough sky or flowers or butterflies. Yet the children in the neighborhood make the best of what they have. One day, when the sky is full of puffy clouds that everyone is admiring, Darius, a boy Esperanza doesn’t like because he tries to be tough, says something Esperanza finds wise: he looks up at a particular cloud and calls it God.

Summary: “And Some More”

A conversation about clouds between Esperanza, Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel turns into a fight. Esperanza says the Eskimos have thirty different names for snow, which leads them into a discussion about names for clouds. Esperanza knows two names: cumulus and nimbus. She is concerned with the actual names, while Nenny makes up lists of everyday names, such as Lisa and Ted. Nenny does this throughout the story and refuses to respond to her sister or to her friends while they are fighting. Rachel and Lucy are more interested in what the clouds are similar to in their everyday lives, like hair after it’s been brushed or their friend’s fat face. One of the girls says Esperanza has an ugly fat face, and after this the girls playfully exchange creative insults.

Summary: “The Family of Little Feet”

Esperanza imagines a family of people with tiny, plump feet. Her description of the fairy-tale family merges into an account of a day when a woman gives her, Nenny, Rachel, and Lucy some old pairs of high-heeled shoes that happen to fit their small feet perfectly. The girls are amazed at these shoes because when they put them on, they suddenly have attractive, womanly legs. Some of their male neighbors warn them that such suggestive shoes are not meant for little girls, but the girls ignore them. Other men tease them with sexual comments. The shoes cause a flirtation between Rachel and a drunken bum. He asks her to kiss him for a dollar. Frightened, Lucy leads the girls back to Mango Street. They hide the shoes on Rachel and Lucy’s porch, and later Rachel and Lucy’s mother throws them away. The girls are glad the shoes are gone.

Analysis

Though Cathy introduced Alicia in an earlier section as having gotten snobby since she went to college, here we see that Cathy’s description is inaccurate. Alicia isn’t snobby—she’s busy. She is struggling to fulfill the responsibilities of a full-time mother while trying to get an education. Her father faults her for not working enough for the family, and the neighborhood calls her “stuck-up,” but she is actually striving for self-improvement. The patriarchal nature of Hispanic society poses a problem for girls with ambitions, such as Alicia and Esperanza. In these families, when the mother dies, the oldest female child, not the father, takes over responsibility for raising the children, which is why Alicia wishes there were someone older to do the work. To escape her situation, Alicia has chosen to pursue an education, much different from Marin’s or Louie’s other cousin’s escape routes. Alicia does not have the support of her family or the community, which means she’ll have a difficult time overcoming a sexist tradition. Because Alicia is the character most similar to Esperanza so far, her struggles suggest that Esperanza, too, will have difficulty asserting and achieving her independence.

Darius is the first boy Esperanza encounters who has poetic instincts similar to hers. This chapter is closer to a poem than any of the chapters so far. It contains many repeated words and internal rhymes: the word sky appears four times in the first paragraph, and the rhyming school and fool appear in the second. Though Esperanza lists Darius’s transgressions, including chasing girls with firecrackers and a stick he says has touched a rat, she can’t help expressing admiration for Darius’s explanation that a single cloud is God. She is surprised that such a profound observation could come from a boy like Darius. Cisneros gives the impression that Darius may be forced by society into acting tough. Just as Esperanza does, he has his own way of coping with the barrio, necessarily different from Esperanza’s way because he is a boy. However, he too has the ability to be poetic and wise despite his circumstances.

Darius and Esperanza are not the only poets in the neighborhood, and in “And Some More,” the poetic natures of the other children become clear as they observe and describe clouds. Lucy, Rachel, and Nenny also make poetic observations, showing that Esperanza is not the only one who can make surprising comparisons. In fact, in this section we hear Esperanza’s real voice, the voice she uses when she talks to her friends, instead of just her written voice. “And Some More” is a conversation, and, just as in “My Name,” naming is a form of creativity. Lucy and Rachel compare clouds to everyday objects, while Nenny lists a string of people’s names for the clouds. Esperanza is the only one of the girls occupied with the official Latin names for the clouds, and her schoolgirl attitude separates her from her friends. Her interest in the official names reveals her desire to pursue knowledge beyond what she can glean by living day to day.

Marin has tried to teach Esperanza and her friends to be confident and powerful in their encounters with boys, but “The Family of Little Feet” reveals the dangers sex and womanhood hold for these young girls. The shoes turn them magically into women, but at this point the girls are more interested in safety than sex, and they are too timid to fully express their newfound attractiveness. The sexual attractiveness they do express makes them vulnerable, and men like the bum show them that sexual power is not always as innocent or safe as it seems when Marin wields it. The bum offers money for a kiss, but the older girls suspect he might just as easily take what he offers to pay for. He is the first to hint that the sexual power that women like Marin seem so proud of may be just a myth. After being leered at and propositioned by the bum and other men, the girls are happy to abandon their put-on sexuality by leaving the shoes in a bag on the porch.

More Help

Previous Next
There is a mistake

by laughoutloud00, August 20, 2012

Esperanza's name means hope in ENGLISH, not Spanish

4 Comments

63 out of 156 people found this helpful

The Meaning of Esperanza

by jack23011, June 30, 2013

by FaizanB, May 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm:

You needn't apologize for being a student and you are actually more correct than the original poster who merely regurgitates the explanation in the book. Esperanza, in English, both as a verb and a noun means hope and vice versa.

The issue that has everyone all lathered up is that they are not considering the context and juxtaposition Cisneros (the author) is using. She is showing the dichotomy of language--the power that words have.

You see, she chooses to use the English translation... Read more

1 Comments

39 out of 48 people found this helpful

the house on mango street

by ninnagen, October 04, 2013

what are the names of the narrators family of the house on mango street anyone know?

2 Comments

5 out of 14 people found this helpful

See all 10 readers' notes   →

Follow Us