The House on Mango Street

by: Sandra Cisneros

Sally

Sally is the girl with eyes like Egypt and nylons the color of smoke. The boys at school think she is beautiful because her hair is shiny black like raven feathers and when she laughs, she flicks her hair back like a satin shawl over her shoulders and laughs.

Esperanza describes her new friend, Sally, a girl who is more sexually mature and interested in boys than Esperanza. Esperanza wishes she were beautiful like Sally and admires Sally’s sense of style. She wants to have shoes and stockings like Sally’s. Esperanza identifies with Sally because she knows Sally also wants to get away from Mango Street.

Until the way Sally tells it, he just went crazy, he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt. You’re not my daughter. You’re not my daughter. And then he broke into his hands.

Esperanza soon learns that Sally has a troubled home life, the victim of constant physical abuse by her father. He beats her every time a boy shows an interest in her, begs his daughter’s forgiveness, and reverts to begin the cycle again. Sally’s plight adds to Esperanza’s growing realization of the physical power of men over women.

One of the boys invented the rules. One of Tito’s friends said you can’t get the keys back unless you kiss us and Sally pretended to get mad at first but she said yes. It was that simple.

Esperanza observes Sally playing a kissing game with some boys. When Sally pretends to get mad, Esperanza becomes afraid for her and runs off to get help. No one will help, so Esperanza plans to defend Sally on her own. Then Sally laughs at her for not understanding the situation. The incident devastates Esperanza, who doesn’t fully realize that Sally behaves promiscuously because of her emotional neediness and sexual insecurity.

Sally, Sally a hundred times. Why didn’t you hear me when I called? Why didn’t you tell them to leave me alone? The one who grabbed my arm, he wouldn’t let me go.

After being assaulted by a group of boys, Esperanza blames Sally for abandoning her and making her vulnerable. She also feels angry at Sally for misleading her about sex and romance. Admiring and following Sally has led Esperanza into danger. Esperanza does not yet recognize that the boys would not have stopped even if Sally tried to stop them.

Sally got married like we knew she would, young and not ready but married just the same. She met a marshmallow salesman at a school bazaar, and she married him in another state where it’s legal to get married before eighth grade.

Esperanza narrates the end of Sally’s story in the voice of the neighborhood. She presents Sally’s fate as predictable, even inevitable, given Sally’s circumstances. By getting married so young, Sally disqualifies herself from being Esperanza’s equal; the reader understands that Sally will stay on Mango Street, or some other street like it, while Esperanza will achieve much more.