Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.
Esperanza describes herself as a red balloon in “Boys and Girls” before she has made any friends in her new neighborhood. Until she has a best friend with whom she can share her secrets and who will understand her jokes, she believes she will be this red balloon. The image of the balloon suggests that she feels she is floating in anticipation of something and that she feels isolated. The color red suggests that she stands out in the neighborhood. Esperanza finds friends, Lucy and Rachel, soon after this section, but the feeling of being a balloon persists. She is still floating because she feels she does not fit in on Mango Street, and she is still isolated because she does not share her deepest secrets with her friends. In “Laughter” we learn that Esperanza’s sister Nenny, not her new friends, laughs at her jokes without her having to explain them.
Esperanza has chosen to think of herself as something floating, and in this way she is similar to some of the other children on Mango Street. Both Meme Ortiz and Angel Vargas fall from great heights in early vignettes. Meme breaks both his arms, while Angel dies. Both children are trying to fly in order to escape their lives on Mango Street. In this quote Esperanza describes herself as floating, but also as tethered to the earth. When she finally abandons her tether, she would like to fly away instead of falling, as the others have. She will either have to find a way to return to the ground without hurting herself, or to fly away without falling. By the end of The House on Mango Street, Esperanza discovers she is not unique in her neighborhood, but does, in fact, belong there. Only at that point can Esperanza let go of this particular metaphor and realize that she cannot float away from her community for good. She must leave it gradually and eventually return.