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Esperanza and The Woman in "The House on Mango Street" (II)

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Marta Vázquez

on 16 December 2013

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Transcript of Esperanza and The Woman in "The House on Mango Street" (II)

In Esperanza's society -dominated by men- women and men don't occupy the same space:
Men enjoy the outside and the public sphere.
Women have to stay inside, in their houses.
“The boys and girls live in separate worlds. The boys in their universe and we in ours. My brothers for example. They’ve got plenty to say to me and Nenny inside the house. But outside they can’t be seen talking to girls.”
(Ch. "Boys & Girls", p. 8)
Women's oppression directly derives from the space they occupy in society:
Women have to stay at home and hide their sexuality to be accepted.
This is why Sally has to come straight home after school.
Her father beats her, fearing that she might not stay in her place.
“Until one day Sally’s father catches her talking to a boy and the next day she doesn’t come to school. And the next. Until the way Sally tells it, he just went crazy, he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt.
You are not my daughter, you’re not my daughter. And then he broke into his hands.”
(Ch. "What Sally Says", p. 93)

The fact that he hit her this hard only because she was talking to a boy, and that then nothing changes, proves how deeply the people on Mango Street believes in the separation of spaces.
For Esperanza, the outside represents independence and youth:
She wants to be beautiful and cruel like the women in movies.
But she knows that in her society a woman cannot enjoy the outside and be well-regarded.
Women by the window:
Women who are always
of the window looking out
of the window or standing beside the house door.
They stay inside, but they feel trapped and this is their half-attempt to escape
This gives them sort of freedom because:
But even that is considered troublesome.
“What matters, Marin says, is for the boys to see us and for us to see them.”
(Ch. “Marin”, p. 27)
Her husband locks her in the house when he leaves.
She feels sad and wishes she were Rapunzel so that someone would rescue her.
"Rafaella leans out the window and leans on her elbow and dreams her hair is like Rapunzel’s. On the corner there is music from the bar, and Rafaella wishes she could go there and dance before she gets old.”
(Ch. “Rafaella Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays”, p. 79)
For Sally the oppression is greater because her husband doesn't let her look out the window or talk on the phone.
Esperanza’s great-grandmother was a woman by the window
But Esperanza is determined not to be a woman by the window.
Instead, Esperanza tries to help those women any way she can.
Esperanza's pre-adolescent point of view emphasizes her involvement in the problems of the women from her community:
Her youth makes it easier for her to question the system in which she lives, to try to break free from it and to help other people.
A house represents the social status of a family:
There is a maturity process in her wayof thinking in "Bums in the Attic".
She starts feeling ashamed of living in a poor house, because that gives them a low class status.
That oppresses her even more because a house is the only domain for a woman in her community.
However, by the end of the chapter, she decides that she would allow bums to live in her future house's attic.
This is a revolutionary ideas because it breaks with the way society is established and it would break with the gender differences regarding space.
WOMEN's responsibilities to one another
Women have responsibilities towards each other:
No woman attepmts to rebel against them because they are complete foreigners to their world.
Since women are more vulnerable it is their duty to help each other.
Esperanza tries to comply with these responsibilities:
Referring to her sister Nenny:
Letting Minerva read her poems and showing her her point of view:
Offering Sally to stay at her house and being comprehensive with her desires:
“She can’t play with those Vargas kids or she’ll turn out just like them. And since she comes right after me, she is my responsibility.”
(Ch. “Boys & Girls”, p. 8)
“Next week she comes back black and blue and asks what can she do? Minerva. I don’t know which way she’ll go. There is nothing I can do.”
(Ch. “Minerva Writes Poems”, p. 85)
“And no one could yell at you if they saw you out in the dark leaning against a car, leaning against somebody without someone thinking you are bad, without somebody saying it is wrong, without the whole world waiting for you to make a mistake when all you wanted, all you wanted, Sally, was to love and to love and to love and to love, and no one could call that crazy.”
(Ch. “Sally”, p. 83)
It's the only character directly addressed in the book, and it happens twice.
The first time in "Sally", where Esperanza reads very well into Sally's heart;
The second time in "Red Clowns" after the assault.
Here she learns that Sally, and the women in her community in general, do not fulfil their responsibilities towards other women.
At the beginning:
Esperanza helps Sally more than she helps other women in her community
Sally doesn't seem to appreciate the help:
She leaves when her father comes looking for her.
She asks Esperanza to leave in the chapter “The Monkey Garden”.
We never get Sally’s response in any way when Esperanza addresses her.
In "Red Clowns" and afterwards:
Esperanza blames Sally for what has happened to her.
Esperanza puts some distance in between Sally and herself. She doesn't feel so attached to her anymore.
We only hear from Sally once more in "Lynoleum Roses" but here Esperanza is much colder and objective in her report.
Maybe in "Red Clowns" Esperanza learnt that not all women in her community appreciate and therefore return her help.
Sally could be one of those, meaning that no matter what Eseranza does for her, she won't be able to save Sally.
This could be why she doesn't try so hard with Sally anymore.
She doesn’t seem to want to be helped either because she is so stuck in preserving her identity and rejecting English, that there is no way she can adapt herself to the community.
Mamacita is distraught when she learns that her baby boy is speaking English because that excludes her from his world.
is younger and is already excluding
from development, which in a way means that a younger male is also oppressing her.
In the novel, those who don't speak English belong to the bottom levels of society:
Esperanza prefers English over Spanish because that will allow her to prosper in life.
The women around her who do not speak English are stuck in life.
Aunt Lupe and the Three Sisters emphasise the importance of writing:
The Three sisters represent the
mythological figure of the Three Parcae
or Moirai.
They are in charge of a person's destiny
& control the metaphorical thread of life.
the fate of people in walls
and what was
could not be erased. So their power derived from
When Esperanza writes she's being powerful and fighting against oppression. She is helping the women of Mango Street.
Maybe, what she changes through her literature will be permanent as well.
<<While most women of her ethnicity have had to choose between “three directions... to the Church as a nun, to the streets as a prostitute, or to the home as a mother”, Esperanza is making the newly and sparingly available fourth choice, “entering the world by the way of education and career and becoming self-autonomous persons”, or claiming a public identity (Anzaldúa 17). She can do so because she has visions, and also because she has language skills and the energy which she inherits from the Chicana women around her.>>
(Kuribayashi, T., 1997, p. 174)
1-. Space:
Differences between women and men.
Girls outside the house.
Women by the window.
Esperanza’s house.
Esperanza’s young age.
2-. Women’s responsibilities to each other:

Esperanza tries to comply with her share of responsibilities.
- Un-fulfilment.
- Realisation
-- Mamacita--
3-. Women and Language:
Speaking English vs. only speaking Spanish
Mentors: The Three Sisters:

Creating Safe Space: Violence and Women's Writing.
(Kuribayashi, T., 1997)
Brunk, Beth L. En otras voces: Multiple Voices in Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. Hispanófila 133 (2001 Sept): 137-50.
The House on Mango Street: BookCaps Study Guide
(Bookcaps, 2012)

Los Bildungsromane Femeninos de Carmen Boullosa y Sandra Cisneros
(Yolanda Melgar Pernías, 2012)
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