The House on Mango Street – blog post by Georgia Balch

“I had started Esperanza in Iowa at the University of Iowa, feeling very displaced and uncomfortable as a person of color, as a woman, as a person from working-class background. And in reaction to being there I started to have some Mango Street almost as a way of claiming this is who I am. It became my flag. And I realize now that I was creating something new. I was cross-pollinating fiction and poetry and writing something that was the child of both. I was crossing borders and I didn’t know it.”

This quote is particularly interesting when relating the novel to the idea of locating the subject. Here, we are presented with a young Hispanic girl growing up in Chicago, in a home that she is not happy in. It seems that here we can relate the creation of Esperanza to Shoshana Felman’s idea that women are, ‘trained to see ourselves as objects and to be positioned as the Other,’ Throughout the novel, we are reminded of the struggles Esperanza faces as ‘the Other’ because she is a woman, because she is Hispanic and because she is from a working -class background.

 

Cisneros presents us with a coming-of-age story through the use of vignettes, and a narrator that grows up as the plot develops. As she continues to become a woman throughout the story we can compare our protagonist to Rose’s theory of, “‘the subject in process’ to convey the sense of the subject as incomplete, always becoming, never stable.” After meeting the elusive, glamourous and beautiful Sally, we see Esperanza start reflecting on sexuality and femininity. However, this Cleopatra-esque character has her own issues, trapped on Mango Street and later in an abusive relationship. As Esperanza experiences her own sexual encounters, most notably, ‘Red Clowns’ she directly addresses Sally, saying “Sally, you lied, you lied. He wouldn’t let me go. He said I love you, I love you, Spanish girl.”

 

The use of the words ‘Spanish girl’ are reflective of the struggles that she faces not only by being a woman, but also because of her background. As a child, she says, “All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighbourhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake,” She only feels safe within her Hispanic neighbourhood, yet she wants to escape. In ‘The Rice Sandwich’ we see her attempt this in a sense, but it all goes horribly wrong.  The story concludes with ‘Mango Says Goodbye’ in which our protagonist still looks ahead in hope of freedom, “They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Carmen Luis on October 9, 2017 at 11:37 am

    .

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  2. Posted by Fern Dalton on October 9, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Really enjoyed reading your blog and agree with many of your raised points. In addition to Rose’s theory that you have mentioned, I notice that Esperanza, although wanting to leave Mango Street, she realises her writing ability and we see her become more invested in her writing and less attached to her community. Esperanza never becomes complete and instead find privacy through her writing, leaving her unstable and stuck in a ‘processing’ phase.

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  3. Posted by ambermillar1995 on October 9, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    This is a fantastic blog, really enjoyed reading your perspective on the book. I did want to raise some questions about form – why did Cisneros choose such an unusual style of prose to convey Esperanza’s story? I think the vignettes act as snapshots of specific moments of her life and allow the reader to develop a more informal and intimate connection with her life. I would be interested to hear anyone else’s opinion on the topic of form.

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  4. Great blog and agree with what you have written. For me I see the text as extracts from a diary.There is a shift in style from ‘Hips’ to ‘The First Job’ which I think is when we first start to see Esperanza mature into a young women. By writing short segments on pinnacle moments can then be linked with women needing their own space and due to their family size this is something she doesn’t have and therefore can’t commit to writing continuously.

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  5. Posted by Camara Butler on October 10, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Really enjoyed reading your response to the novel. The quotes you used are also great as they highlight which aspects of the text stood out to you! It’s also interesting the way you have linked the novel to Rose’s theory. I too wanted to raise a question on form; Cisneros stated in her introduction that she felt the text worked better through the voice of a child. Do you agree? Do you feel that the child’s voice highlighted the ‘adult’ issues to a great extent?

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  6. Posted by Carmen Luis on October 11, 2017 at 10:25 am

    A great blog which draws attention to Rose’s theory of the ‘subject in progress’ and applies is to the Cisneros’s novel. This theory is a key concept in the novel as Esperanza’s growth is stimulated through her accounts on the women surrounding her and their situation which confined them in their positions. They are either trapped due to their economic circumstances or due to patriarchal influence. The theory emphasises the idea that Esperanza is not a fixed subject and therefore has the need to leave Mango Street for her own personal growth. A question I have would like to be brought forth is whether the others were satisfied with the quantity each female had in Cisneros’ novel or were they left desiring more?

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  7. Posted by Sara on October 11, 2017 at 10:26 am

    This blog is quite interesting as it shows the way the subject is indeed “incomplete, always becoming, never stable”. In this novel, Cisneros reflects the idea that the subject is constantly redefining her own identity as she emerges from the stereotypical identity imposed upon her by society and to her search for her own identity. This is seen through the way most chapter shows and talks about different women and the vulnerabilities they face in a patriarchal society and the way in which she breaks out of it. This, in my opinion, is most notable in the chapter ‘The Family of Little Feet’ where they try and mold their feet to fit the shoe, therefore, mirroring the need to mold one’s identity to the societal norm.

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  8. Posted by Ruzina on October 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Would you say that Cisneros presents two voices in this story? We first see 12 year old Esperanza, whose innocent descriptions allows the reader to observe the patriarchal society that she lives in. Indeed ”the subject in process”, a mature Esperanza, in search of her own identity, rejects both the expectations of culture and society. Esperanza’s dream home becomes synonymous with social and economic independence.

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  9. Posted by Rachel Chandar on October 11, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    This was a good blog post to read, and I like how you linked Felman’s idea that women are ‘trained to see ourselves as objects and to be positioned as the Other’. Esperanza is always looking for something more due to the oppression and struggles against her as a woman and because of her background. She struggles to develop her own identity within her suffocating environment, as she explains she is ‘tired of being beautiful’. As a woman, her appearance and her behaviour are moulded and defined by patriarchal expectations, but Esperanza is this ‘subject in process’ who goes in search of her own identity throughout the novel.

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  10. Posted by Zoha Hussain on October 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Hello I really enjoyed readinf your blog. You were able to capture the plight of the woman, the female figure trapped motif which we see throughout Literature. I feel that the House is sort of an echo of the attic in which Bertha is kept because she is considered ‘mad’ , or the room ‘The Yello Wallpaper’ as we see the female protaganists stuck in this abyss of isolation.
    The form reminds me of an epistolary writing; i agree with Becky they seem like pieces of her diary. Reminded me of Alice Walker’s ‘The Colour Purple,’
    I feel the issue of ‘othering’ a post colonial echo gives the novel a dimension, a certain sadness to it. The woman as the other, colonized and trapped. I feel Imtiaz Dharkar would fit in really well.
    Again enjoyed reading the blog.
    Thank you.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Lily Money on October 11, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    I enjoyed reading this blog post and there was a lot I agreed with. The opening quote that was used, by Sandra Cisneros was interesting. Using ‘Mango street’ as not just the street that Esperanza lived, but it was what claimed her. I agree with the how Felman’s essay reflects Esperanza to the idea that women as the other, we are trained to see each others as objects. Not to be able to create the identity of oneself. You can see the gradual change in the narrator’s voices as you go through the vignettes. And I agree with some of the other comments, it does feel it is from a diary.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your points, I really enjoyed reading this blog. I agreed with your point about Esperanza being presented as ‘the Other’, and would like to extend this further. In addition to her identity as an ethnic, working class woman adding to her presentation as ‘the Other’, I think her age is also a contributing factor. Whilst Lucy and Rachel are presented as young and immature, Sally and the older women that Esperanza shares her poetry with are clearly much more more mature than she is. This failure to identify with others at her own level of maturity arguably creates a further sense of isolation for Esperanza, and also contributes to her presentation as ‘the Other’.

    Reply

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