The House on Mango Streets: Don’t forget who you are … and remember to come back!

It has been difficult to find what’s my favorite book until now. To be honest, I was not really happy when reading the first two books. But since Down These Mean Streets until now, it is very difficult to choose one that I have liked the most, because all of them were really good. The last three books have surprised me and helped me analyze some social issues and topics trough different perspectives.

However, when it comes to The House on Mango Streets, I feel this book touched a very sensitive point inside me. One part that really makes me identify with Esperanza is when she fights so fiercely for going out from Mango Street. She wants to go away and have a nice house of her own. But, she is not only dreaming about that, as her mother used to do. Esperanza does not leave anything by chance,  she is persevering and determined to achieve that; and eventually it is nice that at end of the book she achieves this dream.

Yet, another common message that this book outlines, is  that Esperanza should not forget who she is and where she comes from. Almost at the end of the book, we can read this: “You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are. […] You must remember to come back. For the ones who cannot leave as easily as you” (p. 105). This part of the book is kind of repetitive. Esperanza is always expected to come back to her origins and don’t ever forget that. It is as if she has, in a sense, “the duty” to help the ones that are still in Mango Street, the ones that do not born with the same destiny of Esperanza, and who sadly have to live hard moments in that special but also difficult neighborhood that characterizes Mango Street.

This message is kind of intriguing because I’ve also had the need to come back to my country and help those people who did not have the opportunity to go abroad and study in a University like UBC. However, in the case of Esperanza it is difficult to know for sure if this is a personal duty she imposed for herself, or if it is more like a duty that society expects her to meet.

One final though I have in my mind is that it is confusing to know for sure if Esperanza  is the one that achieves his goal, meaning that she has the agency to carve her own destiny, or if it is luck that plays on her favor and permits her to go out of Mango Street because “she is special”, as one of the three  old women  told her.

I think it is needed more blogs to talk about this book. I have focused more on Esperanza and on the topics mentioned before. But, there are many stories more in this book that are also valuable to analyze. Esperanza’s neighbors have also very interesting, and (some even sad) lives. Sally is one of the characters that really caught my attention in this book, as well as Ruthie.

I really enjoyed this book, hope you also enjoyed it 🙂

Read 3 comments

  1. Hey Pamela, I read the comment you left, I tried answeing it but for some reason google wasn’t allowing me to post under your answer. Here it is: “I don’t know if you received a comment I had made, maybe google didn’t save it. But in essence what I said was that I was generally struggling with the themes presented in this novel. Some of them I can relate to at a personal level, and that is where my bias comes in. I think of what I wished I could do. But that’s just it! We don’t know what we would do in these situations, maybe not even Esperanza… these are such harsh topics. I wasn’t happy with the book, doesn’t mean I didn’t like it overall. I liked it’s challenge, I liked that it was so thought provoking…. Personally I disliked the portrayal of women, but that is bias. Your comment really helps grasp a different side of things. Thank you 🙂 !”
    And now for a comment on your blog :): I am really struck by the positivity you mention. I really look up to that and want that for myself as well. Do you think we can really go back? Sometimes I think of my own home country and the luck I have had for coming to study high school and University in Canada. But the longer I stay apart the more I fear losing what connects me to Portugal. i do think that hopefully when I go back, I will remember again. I envy the strength Esperanza has, her fight… I think this book also really touched me. Thank you for this comment 🙂

  2. “it is confusing to know for sure if Esperanza is the one that achieves his goal, meaning that she has the agency to carve her own destiny, or if it is luck that plays on her favor and permits her to go out of Mango Street because ‘she is special,’ as one of the three old women told her.”

    Yes, this is a good question, very much related to the discussion that you and Maria are having. I’d point out that Esperanza writes her way out. But it’s interesting that the person who tells her this, that writing will “keep [her] free” (61), is also the person that she treats most shamefully of all.

  3. Hey Pamela! I really enjoyed this book as well! I believe that even though throughout the book Esperanza is sharing her own story she is also using her writing to share the story of the other women on Mango Street. She has this desire to leave this place and make a life of her own, outside of the barriers that many of the other women suffer. I believe that even though it seems like Esperanza does succeed in leaving Mango Street, this stage of her life will always be with her and play an important part in her identity. Though she does succeed in leaving she will never forget that women that she has left behind.

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