The House on Mango Street

by: Sandra Cisneros

Nenny

Nenny is too young to be my friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you get them, and sometimes they come like Nenny. She can’t play with those Vargas kids or she’ll turn out just like them. And since she comes right after me, she is my responsibility.

Esperanza describes her younger sister Nenny, short for Magdalena. Esperanza has the responsibility to watch Nenny, so the two are usually together. The girls often play with Lucy and Rachel, another pair of sisters. Partly because of the two younger girls, the group typically plays innocent, childlike games.

But me and Nenny, we are more alike than you would know. Our laughter for example. Not the shy ice cream bells’ giggle of Rachel and Lucy’s family, but all of a sudden and surprised like a pile of dishes breaking.

Esperanza reflects on the subgroup she and Nenny form within the larger group that includes Lucy and Rachel. The girls’ laughter clearly distinguishes the two families: Esperanza and Nenny laugh in a loud, almost jarring way, while Rachel and Lucy giggle like gentle bells. Esperanza’s description reveals how close she feels to her sister in spite of their differences.

Nenny who thinks she is smart and talks to any old man, asks lots of questions. Me, I never said nothing to him except once when I bought the Statue of Liberty for a dime.

Esperanza reflects on the differences between her and Nenny’s personalities. She recounts the time she and Nenny explore Gil’s Furniture Bought and Sold, an overstuffed junk shop owned by an old black man. The scene shows that Nenny is a more outgoing, less fearful person than Esperanza. The phrase “any old man” reveals Esperanza’s worry for her sister. She feels responsibility for keeping Nenny safe.

That’s cumulus, too. They’re all cumulus today. Cumulus, cumulus, cumulus. No, she says. That there is Nancy, otherwise known as Pig-eye. And over there her cousin Mildred, and little Joey, Marco, Nereida, and Sue.

While Esperanza, Rachel, Lucy, and Nenny watch the clouds, Esperanza shows off her science knowledge and tries to teach Nenny the technical terms. But Nenny reveals her imaginative side and assigns the clouds human personalities and silly names. Nenny may not know the scientific names of the clouds, but she continuously tries to impress Esperanza.

Yes, no, maybe so. Yes, no, maybe so ... Nenny, I say, but she doesn’t hear me. She is too many light-years away. She is in a world we don’t belong to anymore. Nenny. Going. Going. Y-E-S spells yes and out you go!

Esperanza shares her thoughts while jumping rope with Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel. Esperanza, Lucy, and Rachel change the chants as they jump to reflect their new awareness of changes in their bodies, but Nenny doesn’t understand their game and just repeats childhood rhymes. The incident reveals Esperanza’s sexual awakening, while Nenny still dwells in innocent childhood. Esperanza seems to notice her attention turning away from Nenny.