She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.

Esperanza says this of her great-grandmother and namesake, Esperanza. Her great-grandmother is the first of many women in The House on Mango Street who spend their lives looking out the window and longing for escape. Esperanza resolves not to end up like her great-grandmother even before she meets the other trapped women on Mango Street. These modern women, including Mamacita, Rafaela, Minerva (whose window is broken), and Sally (who has to look at the floor instead of out the window) give Esperanza an even more vivid picture of what it is like to be trapped, hardening her resolve not to be like the first Esperanza.

By repeatedly connecting the window image to the trapped women on Mango Street, Cisneros depicts a row of third-floor apartments as jail cells. Some of the women are stuck in these cells because of their husbands, but Esperanza implies that some of them could do more to change their situations. Esperanza wonders if her great-grandmother made the best of her situation, or if instead she turned her anger at her husband inward, and therefore hurt herself more than her husband could have. Esperanza asks this question only once, and she does not apply it to any of the other women she meets. Her capacity for both empathy and pity grows as she understands their particular stories better than the story of her great-grandmother, whom she never met.