The House on Mango Street

by: Sandra Cisneros

Papa

Our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told us before we went to bed.

Esperanza introduces Papa as the source of her family’s dream, which reflects the American dream of home ownership. The house on Mango Street, the first home they have owned, falls far short of their dream. As Papa works hard to make it possible for the family to have a home, he’s absent for much of the story.

My Papa, his thick hands and thick shoes, who wakes up tired in the dark, who combs his hair with water, drinks his coffee, and his gone before we wake, today is sitting on my bed. And I think if my own Papa died what would I do. I hold my Papa in my arms. I hold him and hold him and hold him.

After Papa tells Esperanza about her grandfather’s death, he cries. Here, Esperanza imagines the pain of losing him, her own father, and empathizes with his suffering. She hugs him to make herself less afraid as well as to comfort him. The scene gives readers a glimpse of the strong love that holds this family together.

I want a house on a hill like the ones with the gardens where Papa works. We go on Sundays, Papa’s day off. I used to go. I don’t anymore. You don’t like to go out with us, Papa says. Getting too old? Getting too stuck-up, says Nenny. I don’t tell them I am ashamed—all of us staring out the window like the hungry. I am tired of looking at what we can’t have.

Esperanza becomes increasingly aware of her family’s relative poverty and of their low status in the world. Here, she reveals her feelings about recognizing what she knows her family can’t have, and this recognition pains her. She has normal emotions for a teenager, a fact that Papa recognizes when he teases her about her age. Esperanza feels ashamed and sorry for herself and fails to give her Papa the appreciation he deserves.

My father says when he came to this country he ate hamandeggs for three months. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hamandeggs. That was the only word he knew. He doesn’t eat hamandeggs any more.

Papa, a native of Mexico, tells funny stories about his arrival in the United States. Here, Esperanza repeats one of his tales in the context of describing a new neighbor who is afraid to speak English. Papa’s Mexican heritage and Spanish language determine where and how he lives and help to form his children’s identity.