But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring. The snoring, the rain, and Mama’s hair that smells like bread.
Here, Esperanza introduces her mother by describing her hair. Her description makes readers realize that Mama functions as the center of Esperanza’s life, the person who makes Esperanza feel safe. The rich sensory details testify to the emotional security of Esperanza’s home life, despite the financial insecurity.
It’s me—Mama, Mama said. I open up and she’s there with bags and big boxes, the new clothes and, yes, she’s got socks and a new slip with a little rose on it and a pink-and-white-striped dress. What about the shoes? I forgot. Too late now. I’m tired. Whew!
Here, Mama comes home from buying new clothes for Esperanza to wear to a party. Mama and Esperanza seem to communicate back and forth about the purchases. The details about the clothes indicate that Esperanza still dresses like a little girl. The passage helps readers understand that Esperanza’s life is not completely poverty stricken. Her parents manage to provide good things for their children.
Mama dances, laughs, dances. All of a sudden, Mama is sick. I fan her hot face with a paper plate. Too many tamales, but Uncle Nacho says too many this tilts his thumb to his lips.
At a family party, Esperanza observes her mother relaxing. Mama comes across as a cheerful, amusing person who belongs to a family that knows how to have a good time. The party scene counteracts some of the negative impressions created by the family’s overcrowded house and poor neighborhood.
Today while cooking oatmeal she is Madame Butterfly until she sighs and points the wooden spoon at me. I could’ve been somebody, you know? Esperanza, you go to school. Study hard. That Madame Butterfly was a fool. She stirs the oatmeal.
Esperanza describes her mother as a person of many talents, who borrows opera records from the library and makes embroidered art. Here, Esperanza recounts a scene in which Mama sings while cooking. Mama’s conversational leaps show she’s fun to talk to, allow her to reveal inner thoughts, and offer insightful advice. Mama’s creativity, humor, and encouragement act as sources of her daughter’s talent and strength.
Shame is a bad thing, you know. It keeps you down. You want to know why I quit school? Because I didn’t have nice clothes. No clothes, but I had brains. Yup, she says disgusted, stirring again. I was a smart cookie then.
Here, Mama explains why she quit school. But she also addressing Esperanza’s sense of shame about the house on Mango Street and the family’s relative poverty. She warns Esperanza not to let shame keep her down. Mama feels that she neglected her own opportunities and does not want her daughter to make the same mistake.