The collection of vignettes,
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, describes the life of a girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago. Throughout her life, Esperanza struggles with her environment. However, she discovers how to surmount the obstacles to find her identity. As Esperanza observes the world around her, she notices the different ways that women are treated and viewed. They are labeled with stereotypes, which are ideas held as a standard by society about a certain group of people, whether it be race, religion, age, or gender. Esperanza overcomes the stereotypes that limit the other women in her environment by observing the experiences of Alicia, Rafaela, and Marin.
Esperanza learns to avoid stereotypes placed on women by observing Alicia.
Alicia is one of Esperanza's role models. She is young and smart, and takes care of her father since her mother died. She studies hard to go to the university, because she doesn’t want to stay home and do housework all her life. However, her father says that
“a woman’s place is sleeping so she can wake up early with the tortilla star, the one that appears early just in time to rise and catch the hind legs hide behind the sink, beneath the fourclawed tub, under the swollen floorboards nobody fixes, in the corner of your eyes” (31). Alicia’s father believes that women belong at home to do chores all day. This is why the mice that Alicia fear so much represent her father. He treats her like she is crazy to believe that a woman can amount to more than just staying in the house to make tortillas. Despite her fear towards her father, Alicia continues to study all night for university. Alicia does not plan to escape Mango Street through marriage, unlike many
of the other women. Instead, she works hard in hopes of changing her life on her own terms. The way her father described his view on the role of women illustrates the stereotype Alicia faces. Alicia’s actions impact the way that Esperanza acts toward stereotypes. She learns that education is an important aspect in life, and that even if others put her down and disagree with her ambitions, she has to keep going no matter what. By watching Mamacita’s negative example, Esperanza realizes what role she wants to avoid in a world full of stereotypes. Mamacita and her baby moved to America at great expense to her husband, who worked two jobs day and night to afford it. But
Mamacita is miserable away from old home. Ever since she has arrived, Mamacita has not left her apartment. Some say it is because she is so fat and can’t climb down the three flights of stairs, but Esperanza believes it is because Mamacita does not know how to speak English. Mamacita cries for her old home, but her husband says there is no going back. She “does not belong, every once in a while lets out a cry, hysterical, high, as if [her husband] had torn the only skinny thread that kept her alive, the only road out to that country” (78). Mamacita is extremely homesick because back in her old country, where she felt like she belonged. She was able to speak the language and socialize with others. She had a life and friends. But in America, Mamacita was too ashamed to leave the house because she only knew a few words in English. While others criticized Mamacita’s appearance, Esperanza saw more that just that. She saw the tragedy in Mamacita's situation. Through Mamacita, Esperanza sees that not knowing the language can keep people caged. She realizes that linguistic ability is
associated with freedom. Fortunately, Esperanza does not need to worry about language barriers since she grew up in America and has been speaking the language her whole life.
Marin’s experiences help Esperanza determine what type