Leaving the Haunted House, Tasting the Mangoes
It seems that there is no other author than Cisneros who could describe the Life of the Mexican Americans with its moments of happiness and grief. Because of her incredible ability to create a mirage that resembles reality so much, readers can plunge into the world of make-believe and feel the salt drops of truth on their lips. Speaking both to the reader’s mind and his/her soul, Cisneros makes him/her believe in her vision of the world and see people with the eyes of a little Mexican girl in her novel The House on Mango Street.
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The Stings of the Aching Pride: Between the Personal and the Cultural
There is hardly anything more painful than the scornful sympathy of strangers. Understanding that the rest of the people consider her environment filthy, Esperanza feels wounded to the quick and loses the rest of the hope that her heart still holds. Neglected children are, perhaps, the saddest phenomenon of modern society, and Cisneros understands it well.
I had to look where she pointed – the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden boards pap had nailed on the windows so we would not fall out. “You live there?” The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded. (Cisneros 128)
Cisneros raises a very important issue, noticing the thin border between sympathy and humiliation. Indeed, sometimes this line becomes almost invisible for people to spot it and not to hurt others’ feelings. This is the scorn of the adults that makes Esperanza feel so neglected and ashamed of herself, her life, and her parents.
Reconciling to the Hardship of Life: In the Lapse of Comfort
No matter how rich one’s life is, it is nothing without comfort, whereas a comfortless life spiced with a handful of miseries is unbearable. Making her character pass the ordeal of life without comfort, Cisneros makes the reader see the obvious pieces of the ordinary which (s)he usually passes without notice, and comfort is one of them.
What Esperanza dreams most about is comfort. Knowing that there is always a place where you can hide from all the problems for a while is rather soothing, but the girl does not have the opportunity to resort to it. What she is left with is only dreaming about the way an ideal house must look, which she does when she turns completely desperate and weary.
And our house would have running water and pipes that worked. And inside it would have real stairs, not hallway stairs, but the stairs inside like the houses on TV. And we’d have a basement and at least three washrooms so when we took a bath we didn’t have to tell everybody. (Cisneros 127)
One of the most touching parts of the book, the piece where Esperanza thinks of the way the house of her dreams must look like, is the symbol of all people’s hopes and aspirations. It brings tears to the readers’ eyes, both making them sad and comforting them. It sounds like the chime of the old clock in the dining room and speaks of the family values more convincing than the staunchest moralists of the world altogether.
Looking for a Shelter: All That It Takes to Safety
The house in Cisneros’s story is not merely a building of concrete and stone. It embodies the ruined hopes for safety that Esperanza lacked and which she needed so much. The desire to have what people call the real home is what every single line of the novel is shot through with:
They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn’t have to move each year (Cisneros 127)
The wish to stay in the place where things will be fine and where there will be no dreadful feeling of hanging over the abyss. This abyss has a lot of names, among them: despair, fear, and agony, and falling into this pit is inevitable for Esperanza. Longing for the place which she will be able to call home and where she will feel safe, the girl becomes stronger, yet this strength costs her too much– it has taken Esperanza’s hope.
Although it took Esperanza time to understand that there is a place in her heart to cherish hope for a real home. Although her heart was still weak and aching, she still felt that this was the stronghold of her safety, her heart, and her home. The changing environment which she was so used to live in was not the place where she belonged; the real hearth and home were all that time within her reach.
I knew I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, mama said. Temporarily, said papa. But I know how those things go. (128)
Mixed with despair, the wish to have a place where the girl could feel secure stings Esperanza, and she knows that she will not be able to stifle the pain until she finds the place where she belongs. Moreover, she is sure that she never will, and this is the most tragic thing about this child who became an adult so fast.
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Cisneros, Sandra. The House on the Mango Street. Arte Publico Press, Houston, TX, 1988. Print.