Women’s Unfulfilled Responsibilities to Each Other

Early in the novel, Esperanza says that boys and girls live in different worlds, and this observation proves true of men and women in every stage of life. Since the women’s world is often isolating and grants women so little power, Esperanza feels women have a responsibility to protect and make life easier for each other. However, on Mango Street, this responsibility goes unfulfilled. The boys and men in The House on Mango Street are consistently violent, exploitative, or absent, but their world is so foreign to the women that no woman rebels against the men or calls for them to change. Esperanza may call out for women to help each other in the face of the unchanging male world, but no one answers.

Esperanza accepts more responsibility for women as she matures, and as she does, she confronts other women’s indifference more directly. At first Esperanza is responsible only for her younger sister, Nenny, but her responsibilities grow when she befriends Sally. Esperanza tries to save Sally from having to kiss a group of boys in “The Monkey Garden.” However, when Esperanza tries to enlist one of the boys’ mothers to help her, the mother refuses. Later, Sally abandons Esperanza and leaves her vulnerable to male attackers in “Red Clowns.” Esperanza expects female friends to protect each other, and Sally does not fulfill this responsibility. Ultimately, Esperanza understands that even if and when she leaves Mango Street, she will continue to take responsibility for the women in her neighborhood. She feels the responsibility deeply and will not forget it.