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S 280

by: Athena Sipes
Athena Sipes
GPA 3.56


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This 0 page Class Notes was uploaded by Athena Sipes on Sunday November 1, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to HISP at Indiana University taught by Staff in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 51 views. For similar materials see /class/233431/hisp-indiana-university in Foreign Language at Indiana University.

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Date Created: 11/01/15
EL AXOLOTL JULIO CORTAZAR There was a time when Ithought a great deal about the axolotls I went to see them in the aquarium at the J ardin des Plantes and stayed for hours watching them observing their immobility their faint movements Now I am an axolotl I got to them by chance one spring morning when Paris was spreading its peacock tail after a wintry Lent I was heading down the boulevard PortRoyal then Itook SaintMarcel and L Hopital and saw green among all that grey and remembered the lions I was friend of the lions and panthers but had never gone into the dark humid building that was the aquarium I left my bike against the gratings and went to look at the tulips The lions were sad and ugly and my panther was asleep I decided on the aquarium looked obliquely at banal sh until unexpectedly I hit it off with the axolotls I stayed watching them for an hour and left unable to think of anything else In the library at SainteGenevieve I consulted a dictionary and learned that axolotls are the larval stage provided with gills of a species of salamander of the genus Ambystoma That they were Mexican I knew already by looking at them and their little pink Aztec faces and the placard at the top of the tank I read that specimens of them had been found in Africa capable of living on dry land during the periods of drought and continuing their life under water when the rainy season came I found their Spanish name ajolote and the mention that they were edible and that their oil was used no longer used it said like codliver oil I didn39t care to look up any of the specialized works but the next day I went back to the Jardin des Plantes I began to go every morning morning and aftemoon some days The aquarium guard smiled perplexedly taking my ticket I would lean up against the iron bar in front of the tanks and set to watching them There s nothing strange in this because after the first minute I knew that we were linked that something infinitely lost and distant kept pulling us together It had been enough to detain me that first morning in front of the sheet of glass where some bubbles rose through the water The axolotls huddled on the wretched narrow only I can know how narrow and wretched oor of moss and stone in the tank There were nine specimens and the majority pressed their heads against the glass looking with their eyes of gold at whoever came near them Disconcerted almost ashamed I felt it a lewdness to be peering at these silent and immobile figures heaped at the bottom of the tank Mentally I isolated one situated on the right and somewhat apart from the others to study it better I saw a rosy little body translucent I thought of those Chinese figurines of milky glass looking like a small lizard about six inches long ending in a fish s tail of extraordinary delicacy the most sensitive part of our body Along the back ran a transparent fin which joinedwith the tail but what obsessed me was the feet of the slenderest nicety ending in tiny ngers with minutely human nails And then I discovered its eyes its face IneXpressive features with no other trait save the eyes two ori ces like brooches wholly of transparent gold lacking any life but looking letting themselves be penetrated by my look which seemed to travel past the golden level and lose itself in a diaphanous interior mystery A very slender black halo ringed the eye and etched it onto the pink esh onto the rose stone of the head vaguely triangular but with curved and triangular sides which gavie it a total likeness to a statuette corroded by time The mouth was masked by the triangular plane of the face its considerable size would be guessed only in pro le in front a delicate crevice barely slit the lifeless stone On both sides of the head where the ears should have been there grew three tiny sprigs red as coral a vegetal outgrowth the gills I suppose And they were the only thing quick about it every ten or fteen seconds the sprigs pricked up stif y and again subsided Once in a while a foot would barely move I saw the diminutive toes poise mildly on the moss It39s that we don t enjoy moving a lot and the tank is so cramped we barely move in any direction and we re hitting one of the others with our tail or our head dif culties arise ghts tiredness The time feels like it39s less if we stay quietly It was their quietness that made me lean toward them fascinated the rst time I saw the axolotls Obscurely I seemed to understand their secret will to abolish space and time with an indifferent immobility I knew better later the gill contraction the tentative reckoning of the delicate feet on the stones the abrupt swimming some of them swim with a simple undulation of the body proved to me that they were capable of escaping that mineral lethargy in which they spent whole hours Above all else their eyes obsessed me In the standing tanks on either side of them different shes showed me the simple stupidity of their handsome eyes so similar to our own The eyes of the axolotls spoke to me of the presence of a different life of another way of seeing Glueing my face to the glass the guard would cough fussily once in a while Itried to see better those diminutive golden points that entrance to the in nitely slow and remote world of these rosy creatures It was useless to tap with one nger on the glass directly in front of their faces they never gave the least reaction The golden eyes continued burning with their soft terrible light they continued looking at me from an unfathomable depth which made me dizzy And nevertheless they were close I knew it before this before being an axolotl I learned it the day I came near them for the rst time The anthropomorphic features of a monkey reveal the reverse of what most people believe the distance that is traveled from them to us The absolute lack of similarity between axolotls and human beings proved to me that my recognition was valid that I was not propping myself up with easy analogies Only the little hands But an eft the common newt has such hands also and we are not at all alike Ithink it was the axolotls39 heads that triangular pink shape with the tiny eyes of gold That looked and knew That laid the claim They were not animals It would seem easy almost obvious to fall into mythology I began seeing in the axolotls a metamorphosis which did not succeed in revoking a mysterious humanity I imagined them aware slaves of their bodies condemned in nitely to the silence of the abyss to a hopeless meditation Their blind gaze the diminutive gold disc without expression and nonetheless terribly shining went through me like a message quotSave us save usquot I caught myself mumbling words of advice conveying childish hopesThey continued to look at me immobile from time to time the rosy branches of the gills stiffened In that instant I felt a muted pain perhaps they were seeing me attracting my strength to penetrate into the impenetrable thing of their lives They were not human beings but I had found in no animal such a profound relation with myself The axolotls were like witnesses of something and at times like horrible judges I felt ignoble in front of them there was such a terrifying purity in those transparent eyes They were larvas but larva means disguise and also phantom Behind those Aztec faces without expreasion but of an implacable cruelty what semblance was awaiting its hour I was afraid of them I think that had it not been for feeling the proximity of other visitors and the guard I would not have been bold enough to remain alone with them quotYou eat them alive with your eyes heyquot the guard said laughing he likely thought I was a little cracked What he didn t notice was that it was they devouring me slowly with their eyes in a cannibalism of gold At any distance from the aquarium I had only to think of them it was as though I were being affected from a distance It got to the point that I was going every day and at night Ithought of them immobile in the darkness slowly putting a hand out which immediately encountered another Perhaps their eyes could see in the dead of night and for them the day continued indefinitely The eyes of axolotls have no lids I know now that there was nothing strange that that had to occur Leaning over in front of the tank each morning the recognition was greater They were suffering every fiber of my body reached toward that sti ed pain that stiff torment at the bottom of the tank They were lying in wait for something a remote dominion destroyed an age of liberty when the world had been that of the axolotls Not possible that such a terrible expression which was attaining the overthrow of that forced blankness on their stone faces should carry any message other than one of pain proof of that eternal sentence of that liquid hell they were undergoing Hopelessly I wanted to prove to myself that my own sensibility was projecting a nonexistent consciousness upon the axolotl They and I knew So there was nothing strange in what happened My face was pressed against the glass of the aquarium my eyes were attempting once more to penetrate the mystery of those eyes of gold without iris without pupil I saw from very close up the face of an axolotl immobile next to the glass No transition and no surprise I saw my face against the glass I saw it on the outside of the tank I saw it on the other side of the glass Then my face drew back and I understood Only one thing was strange to go on thinking as usual to know To realize that was for the first moment like the horror of a man buried alive awaking to his fate Outside my face came close to the glass again I saw my mouth the lips compressed with the effort of understanding the axolotls I was an axolotl and now I knew instantly that no understanding was possible He was outside the aquarium his thinking was a thinking outside the tank Recognizlng him being him himself I was an axolotl and in my world The horror began I learned in the same moment f believing myself prisoner in the body of an axolotl metamorphosed into him with my human mind intact buried alive in an axobtl condemned to move lucidly among unconscious creatures But that stopped when a foot just grazed my face when Imoved just a little to one side and saw an axolotl next to me who was looking at me and understood that he knew also no communication possible but very clearly Or I was also in him or all of us were thinking humanlike incapable of expression limited to the golden splendor of our eyes looking at the face of the man pressed against the aquarium He returned many times but he comes less often now Weeks pass without his showing up I saw him yesterday he looked at me for a long time and left briskly It seemed to me that he was not so much interested in us any more that he was coming out of habit Since the only thing I do is think I could think about him a lot It occurs to me that at the beginning we continued to communicate that he felt more than ever one with the mystery which was claiming him But the bridges were broken between him and me because what was his obsession is now an axolotl alien to his human life Ithink that at the beginning I was capable of returning to him in a certain way ah only in a certain way and of keeping awake his desire to know us better I am an axolotl for good now and if I think like a man it s only because every axolotl thinks like a man inside his rosy stone semblance Ibelieve that all this J J in 39 iw quot 39 to him in those first days when I was still he And in this final solitude to which he no longer comes I console myself by thinking that perhaps he is going to write a story about us that believing he39s making up a story he39s going to write all this about axolotls COGNADOS FALSOS o Sensible o Sensibilidad significa sensitive compasion o Vulgar significa comun o ordinario GRUPOS LEXICOS l MirarToLook Mirada Look Mirando Looking Mirandome Staring 2 Desesperada Desperate 3 Inmovilidad Immobility MirandolosWatching InesperadamenteUnexp MovemosMove ectadely M1rarlosWatch1ng Inmov11esImmob11e EsperabaEx ected Miraba I looked p Movimiento Movement Esperanzas Expectatins M1rabanLooked Se Movia Moved EL LEN GUADO MARIELLA SALA As every afternoon warming his body under the sun warm your back while delayed the time be the last dip in the sea It was nearly lunchtime I noticed the shadows that descended from the hills and a slight chill in the stomach that did imagine the freshly baked breads from the bakery only spa He played a little longer with the sand watching the grains were slipped through his ngers and fell softly Time was also mentioned in the sixth grade book Then I heard the voice of Margarita on the other side of the beach It came running like a runaway horse quotGuess whatquot he said I am providing the boat Swear it s true Johanna exclaimed excitedly quotI solemnly swearquot emphasized Margarita and touching both hands crossed wrists They had decided that this would be her way of swearing and ensure that promises are fulfilled Both burst out laughing and went to bathe in the sea and then run to get permission from their moms The whole week had been planning the fishing day and finally lent the quotDolphinquot quotWe39re going to delay because a paddle is brokenquot said Margaret as they went to town quotNever mind she quickly replied I was so happy that this detail did not matter Rather he proposed Tomorrow we get up early and buy things to eat quotOkayquot said Margaret and fired into the night When Johanna arrived at the dock the next day he met Margaret at the oars in both arms The charge to a sherman friend and went to buy bait After soft drinks and chocolates as this would be their lunch They spent all their tips have lunch but felt better than ever Once in the boat taking a deep breath and start the adventure the first day of shing season the first evening I would go all day alone The sea was bright as the morning The seagulls ying over the quotDolphinquot quotThis time do not give them anything Margarita Johanna said watching the gulls We will be fishing all day and who knows if we will be missing It was felt a wild joy in the intonation of his voice and he was so important quotBut there are plenty of bait we have never had so muchquot said Margarita euphoric quotWoman Be prepared Seriouslyquot said Johanna His mother always said that sentence and was suddenly an adult Margarita laughed and Johanna became infected Margarita was her best friend and there was nothing he liked more than being with her In addition were the only girls of twelve years still did not want love because they could not do anything that really the fun for example go fishing boat When men accompanied them wanted to paddle place the meat are made by those who knew everything and that to them gave them a lot of anger Whale passed by the House and the Tower with very careful not to hit the quotDolphinquot on the rocks in the lower parts of the strait Continued rowing to leave the bay and there in the open sea began to bet how much they would be catching Four horses siX tramboyo y drunk twenty Johanna guessed fun Puro drunk Margarita just laughed But remember that although fish up only eels we can not throw anything Part of the agreement between them was to let all the resort see what had caught whatever it was Would take them all hung the string as they had seen him do some fishing hook and also their parents although of course they caught sea bass and sole enormous because it went much further with jeeps crossing the sands and then motorboatsAlso camped for several days in solitary beaches cooking their own fish and eating them raw with a little lemon quotI m going to catch a ounderquot declared Margaret I promise quotFor that we should go beyond Stranded Wolf Johanna said Look if we just leave the bay quotIt39s true and I m tired and hot What if we had a bath and then put out more power quotHe proposed Johanna agreed immediately They swam and dove for a while until he realized that the boat had been removed Hadto swim quickly to get him to climb As the boat was large and heavy moving slowly Ten feet away they decided to anchor it to tempt fate For half an hour they caught nothing pure weed no more Suddenly Margarita shouted quotIt39s huge Is huge pulled the rope so hard that the boat seemed about to capsize At last came out It was a little drunk that moved with the just having been caught by the belly quotThrow itquot said Johanna disappointed but Margaret was annoyed and reminded him of the pact to carry everything from shing ground Has moved a few yards away always away from the rocks They recalled many stories of drowned whose vessels had crashed into them when the tide suddenly go up After eating chocolates and drink some soda water tried fishing again in a place that seemed more appropriate for the silence that far from the motor boats scare the fish Actually there began to fish with some luck Margarita had a fish and mackerel and three tramboyo plus lots of drunks Johanna had four tramboyo drunks would not even count themIt was the best time of sun and caused them swimming again but when Margaret was plunged into the sea Johanna did not know whycast his line again Almost immediately he felt a slight pull just at the time that Margaret called her to join her He lifted the hook thinking it was a weed because he did not move much and suddenly saw emerging from the sea a sole childI climbed carefully You breath away Only when he had it safe in the boat could scream A sole Marga I caught a ounder She came up with a big jump and wanted to grab him but Johanna did not permit I was very nervous trying to get the hook without hurting When released looked with pride I felt I would burst with joy in your life seldom felt so happy After a dip went fishing more enthusiastic than ever knowing as he was able to get more ounder and even a bass Margaret meanwhile had remained silent as resentful Margarita started getting dark when bored I drank soda and sea spat imagining that the fish would rise to take it quotLook lookquot he said It distinguishes the color orange You do not think that sh smell different feel and see what is coming on quotThe sh have no smellquot said Johanna I did not know if it was the thrill of the sole but she never tired of shing but only stung drunks Margarita began to count the sh She was fourteen and Johanna only twelve but of course she had her sole Marga came at him quotIt39s nicequot he said but is full of drool I m going to wash No quotSaid Johanna You will fall quotBut look at it is horriblequot she answered immediately quotWhen we nish tied all the sh and only then wash themquot declared Johanna knowing that the slime could make it slip sole hands Minutes later however Margarita began to wash Johanna different then saw his face as if it had turned into another person A strange spark ashed in his eyes and dared not say anythingMargarita suddenly said with a soft hoarse voice strange it slipped Johanna could not believe it I felt a strange sensation unknown until then Something like a landslide Iwas about to mourn In a ash had disappeared from his mind the image that was saved during the day He had seen down the pier to the sole surprised faces of all the guys receiving the congratulations of the old shermen feeling closer to them As much as Margarita comforted and promised to pass another like it would sh could not get rid of that awful feeling Also felt that he hated her friend Nevertheless shing continued in silence until it was dark On the beach waiting frightened thinking that something bad had happened to them paving the rescue boats anchors lifted Before downloading Margarita wanted to give the horse to Johanna but she angrily refused I knew it meant accepting stop being so friendly as they had been until then but nothing mattered When they landed Johanna was silent without showing anything he had caught as he looked sideways at Margarita showing off her horse Johanna At that moment he realized that the painful sensation that was not however have lost only a dab COGNADOS FALSOS o Lonche equivalente a merienda una comida o Crudo signi ca l inmaduro ligera que se come durante la tarde rawampimmature sin cocinar 2 Petroleo o Guardar Signi ca en este cuento hadkept o Horne signi ca oven o Molestar signi ca annoyed GRUPOS LEXICOS 1 Juro I swear 3 PescaFishing Juramentar0ath PescadorFisherman m Swear PescadoresFishermen 2 WTOROW PescadoFish RemandoRowing PescandoFishing WRowing PescaronFish MOMS PescabanFished Pescarian Would Fish VOCAB Palabra Significado 1 Significado 2 Significado 3 Spa Resort sust Aun even Parents Pescar To To obj directo Money en Peru ANTONIMOS Acercarse Alej arse Cocinado Crudo Encontrar Perder Enorme Chico Entusiasmado Aburrido Inicio Fin Lejos Cerca Subir Bajar Acordarse Recordar Acuerdo Pacto Colera Rabia Continuar Seguir De Inmediato De Pronto Grande Enorme Prometer Jurar Raro Extra o Responder Replicar Suave Blando Vientre Estomago SINONIMOS NO SPEAK ENGLISH Mamacita is the wife of one of Esperanza s neighbors Her husband works very hard to bring her and her child to Mango Street but once Mamacita arrives she never leaves the house She misses Mexico and refuses to assimilate She is hugely fat but Esperanza also nds her beautiful She sits by the window listens to Spanish radio and wishes to go home Some people think she never leaves her room because she is too fat or because she cannot get down the three ights of stairs but Esperanza believes she refuses to come down because she doesn t speak any English Esperanza s father explains how hard it is to live in the United States without knowing English saying that when he first arrived the only food he knew was hamandeggs so he had to eat hamandeggs three times a day The final blow for Mamacita is that her child whom she has brought with her from Mexico lea1ns English It breaks her heart that even he insists upon speaking this ugly language that she cannot understand Across the street from Esperanza lives a man who worked very hard to bring his mother to the United States from Mexico They call her Mamacita and she stays inside constantly When she first arrives Esperanza sees her fat body exit the taxicab in beautiful pink shoes She speaks no English and cries constantly to return home Her son repeatedly ghts with her informing her that they are now home and living in America She must lea1n to speak English She does not want to NO SPEAK ENGLISH Sustantivos El piso suelo apartamento El nene ni o chico E1 ch fer conductor La oreja ear El conejo rabbit La pluma del sombrero Feather cap La maleta suitcase La sombrerera H atbox E1 hogar La casa El geranio un tipo de or El propietario e1 due o Verbos Ahorrar tosave Money Jalar tirar pull latAm Empujar to push Florecer to ourish Agitar to stir to agitate Cargar to carry Sintonizar to tune tv radio Suspirar respirar Chillar to scream shout gritar Hartarsetobecomefed up IDENTIFICACIONES JEn qu contexto aparecen las siguientes expresiones 0 palabras El Tercer piso a1 frente m f gt7 Agitaci n de caderas iHoly smokes Cancionesnost lgicas N0 speak English LCu ndo LCu ndo No es lo mismo EIEIEIEIEIEIEIEI Pepsi MINERVA ESCRIBE POEMAS Minerva is only a few years older than Esperanza but lives in an entirely different world Her husband beats her gives her two children and leaves her Each time he returns they ght scream hit and he leaves again Consequently she believes her bad luck is permanent and cries all the time She and Esperanza share their poetry with one another Minerva is only two years older than Esperanza but she is married with two children Her husband has left her but he sometimes returns only to leave again At night after the children go to bed and she is alone Minerva writes poems She shares her poems with Esperanza and Esperanza shares hers However Minerva also continues to take her husband back even when he beats her She visits Esperanza one night after being beaten up and asks for advice but Esperanza cannot offer any She doesn t know what will happen to Minerva MINERVA ESCRIBE POEMAS Vocabulario Camino street Marido husband Hot Cakes Pancakes iBasta Enough Pedacitos tiny pieces Irse patas para arriba a disaster Doblar to fold Cerrar con condado To lock to como una casa que arde Like bolt to securly lock a house on fire Piedrota large rock Discusi n 1 JConocen alguien que ha experimentado un incidente de la violencia domestica JC mo viven las muj eres que viven en situaciones de este tipo 2 JQue harias t1391 site encontraras en una situaci n de violencia domestica 3 JQue harias si una vecina 0 si una amiga fuera en este tipo de situaci n Preguntas del capitulo 1 JC mo es Minerva JC mo es su situaci n domestica 2 JPor que llora y reza Minerva 3 JQue hace Minerva despues de cenar hot cakes 4 JQue es el problema mas grande de Minerva 5 JQue hizo e1 esposo de Minerva cuando ella 10 ech de la casa JPor que dice Esperanza que siempre es la misma historia 6 JPor que llega az l y negra Minerva 1a siguiente semana 7 JQue puede hacer Esperanza seg n ella BIEN GUILA Esperanza s mama constantly lectures her daughter on the importance of using a brain to break out of the cycle in which she is caught She is smart she speaks two languages sings opera and can do just about anything except take the subway She doesn39t want her daughter to wind up cooking all day like her She wants her to be more Esperanza s mother complains that she could have done something with her life She has many skillsishe can speak two languages sing draw and fix a televisionibut she does not know how to use the subway While making a family meal Esperanza s mother sings along to aMadame Butter y record she has borrowed from the public library She tells Esperanza that she needs to be able to take care of herself and not just rely on a man She gives as examples two of her friends one whose husband has left and the other who is a widow Then she describes how when she was younger she dropped out of school not because she lacked intelligence but because she was ashamed about not having nice clothes She seems disgusted with her young self and tells Esperanza not to be like she was Hopes amp Dreams 9 Esperanza s mama is a smart cookie with much talent However she never used it to better her own life She desperately wishes a better life for her daughter and tells her S0 ROSAS DE LIN LEO Sally marries before the end of the year She marries a much older salesman who has to take her to another state where it is legal to marry girls who are under fourteen Esperanza believes Sally married to escape her house Sally claims to be happy because her husband sometimes gives her money but her husband sometimes becomes violent and angry as well He does not let her go out talk on the phone see her friends or even look out the window Sally spends her days sitting at home and looking at the domestic objects around her Sally gets ma1ried to a marshmallow salesman and moves away to a state in which it is legal to marry before eighth grade Esperanza thinks Sally got married to escape despite Sally39s claims of happiness She has her own money to do whatever she wants and buy whatever she wants However her husband does get angry sometimes and breaks things Sally is not allowed to use the phone or wait by the window or do much of anything Family lOSally finds a family of her own by ma1rying a man and moving far away This new family does not treat her much better than her previous one for she is not allowed to use the phone or even look out the window Sally39s vicious cycle of family mistreatment continues on with new people coming and going AVECES MANGO DICES ADI S Esperanza loves to tell stories about everything she has done and everywhere she goes She has lived on several streets however the one that sticks out in her memory is Mango Street and she realizes how important it is to her quotI put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much I write it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes She does not hold me with both arms She sets me free One day I will pack my bags ofbooks and paper One day I will say goodbye to Mango I am too strong for her to keep me here forever One day I will go awayquot Esperanza thinks that although she will move around and become free she will always return for those who cannot do so Although they will not know or understand why she returns Esperanza will come back for those who need help Esperanza de nes herself as a storyteller She frames the story by saying she is going to tell the audience a story about a girl who did not want to belong She repeats the paragraph from the first chapter about having not always lived on Mango Street naming the other streets she has lived on The house on Mango Street is the one she remembers the most When she writes about it she is able to free herself from the house s grip She knows that one day she will pack her books and writing materials and leave Mango Street but she will have left only to come back for the others who cannot get out on their own Hopes amp Dreams 11 Esperanza realizes that she is Mango Street and it is part of her She longs to travel and find a new home of her own however she will always return to help those who could not achieve their dreams She will always return BOOK OVERVIEW FULL TITLE The House on Mango Street AUTHOR Sandra Cisneros TYPE OF WORK Novel made up of interconnected vignettes GENRE Comingofage story LANGUAGE English TONE Earnest hopeful intimate with very little distance between the implied author and the narrator TENSE Mostly present tense with intermittent incidents told in the future and past tenses SETTING gTIME A period of one year SETTING PLACE A poor Latino neighborhood in Chicago PROTAGONIST Esperanza MAJOR CONFLICT Esperanza struggles to nd her place in her neighborhood and in the world POINT OF VIEW Esperanza narrates in the firstperson present tense She focuses on her daytoday activities but sometimes narrates sections that are just a series of observations In later vignettes Esperanza talks less about herself and more about the people around her In these sections she is never fully omniscient but she sometimes stretches her imagination to speculate on the characters feelings and futures RISING ACTION Esperanza desires to leave her neighborhood observes other women and finds newfound sexual awareness in her friendship with the sexually adventurous Sally CLIMAX Esperanza s tumultuous friendship with Sally leads to her emotional and sexual humiliation TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN Early 1980s United States DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION 1984 PUBLISHER Vintage Books first published by Arte Publico Press NARRATOR Esperanza Corder FALLING ACTION Esperanza returns to her less mature friends understands that she does in fact belong on Mango Street and settles on writing as her way of both escaping and accepting her neighborhood THEMES The power of language the struggle for selfdefinition sexuality vs autonomy women s unfulfilled responsibilities to each other MOTIFS Names falling women by windows SYMBOLS Shoes trees poetry FORESHADOWING The bum s request for a kiss the boys demand that Sally kiss each of them in exchange for her keys the description of Esperanza s great grandmother s life of sitting at the window Esperanza s preoccupation with names and naming PLOT OVERVIEW 1 On a series of vignettes The House on Mango Street covers a year in the life of Esperanza a Chicana MexicanAmerican girl who is about twelve years old when the novel begins During the year she moves with her family into a house on Mango Street The house is a huge improvement from the family s previous apartment and it is the first home her parents actually own However the house is not what Esperanza has dreamed of because it is rundown and small The house is in the center of a crowded Latino neighborhood in Chicago a city where many of the poor areas are racially segregated Esperanza does not have any privacy and she resolves that she will someday leave Mango Street and have a house all her own Esperanza matures signi cantly during the year both sexually and emotionally The novel charts her life as she makes friends grows hips develops her first crush endures sexual assault and begins to write as a way of expressing herself and as a way to escape the neighborhood The novel also includes the stories of many of Esperanza s neighbors giving a full picture of the neighborhood and showing the many possible paths Esperanza may follow in the future After moving to the house Esperanza quickly befriends Lucy and Rachel two Chicana girls who live across the street Lucy Rachel Esperanza and Esperanza s little sister Nenny have many adventures in the small space of their neighborhood They buy a bike learn exciting stories about boys from a young woman named Marin explore a junk shop and have intimate conversations while playing Double Dutch jumping rope The girls are on the brink of puberty and sometimes find themselves sexually vulnerable such as when they walk around their neighborhood in high heeled shoes or when Esperanza is kissed by an older man at her first job During the first half of the year the girls are content to live and play in their child s world At school Esperanza feels ashamed about her family s poverty and her diffrculttopronounce name She secretly writes poems that she shares only with older women she trusts Over the summer Esperanza slips into puberty She suddenly likes it when boys watch her dance and she enjoys dreaming about them Esperanza s newfound sexual maturity combined with the death of two of her family members her grandfather and her Aunt Lupe bring her closer to the world of adults She begins to closely watch the women in her neighborhood This second half of The House on Mango Street presents a string of stories about older women in the neighborhood all of whom are even more stuck in their situations and quite literally in their houses than Esperanza is Meanwhile during the beginning of the following school year Esperanza befriends Sally a girl her age who is more sexually mature than Lucy or Rachel Sally meanwhile has her own agenda She uses boys and men as an escape route from her abusive father Esperanza is not completely comfortable with Sally s sexual experience and their friendship results in a crisis when Sally leaves Esperanza alone and a group of boys sexually assaults Esperanza in her absence Esperanza s traumatic experiences as Sally s friend in conjunction with her detailed observations of the older women in her neighborhood cement her desire to escape Mango Street and to have her own house When Esperanza finds herself emotionally ready to leave her neighborhood however she discovers that she will never fully be able to leave Mango Street behind and that after she leaves she ll have to return to help the women she has left At the end of the year Esperanza remains on Mango Street but she has matured extensively She has a stronger desire to leave and understands that writing will help her put distance between herself and her situation Though for now writing helps her escape only emotionally in the future it may help her to escape physically as well PLOT OVERVIEW 2 Esperanza Cordero recollects her life living on Mango Street and all the people she meets while there Although her family has not always lived there it is perhaps the most important place she has lived for it represents her heritage and upbringing In small vignettes Esperanza tells the tales of all the people and experiences she has with her little sister Nenny She meets Cathy a wealthier girl who makes Esperanza feels negatively about herhome and moves away when the neighborhood gets bad She meets Sally a girl with painted makeup like the Egyptian Queens who comes from a strict religious family who beats her Sally later becomes a loose woman lies to Esperanza and moves away to get married before the end of eighth grade Esperanza and Nenny become friends with two sisters named Lucy and Rachel from Texas with whom they ride bikes and have many adventures Esperanza is also friends with a girl named Alicia who is terrified of the rats in her apartment and later shares her poetry with Esperanza Esperanza also discovers boys through several women and men who live on the street Marin the girlfriend of Louie tells her about makeup and nylons before she is sent away because of bad behavior Elenita the fortune teller informs Esperanza that she desires a large house and has many wishes to fulfill Rafaela and Ruthie passively instruct Esperanza on how not to marry too young while her own mother expresses her deep wishes and desires for her to live a better life As Esperanza meets people tries to fit in feels like an ugly duckling and craves the touch of a man she realizes that the neighborhood she hates and the house of which she is ashamed is not terrible After the three sisters advise her to remember her family and remember where she came from Esperanza realizes that she will leave Mango Street However despite the impending travels and stories she will create and tell Mango Street will never leave her CHARACTERS 1 ESPERANZA As Esperanza matures during the year that makes up The House on Mango Street she experiences a series of awakenings the most important being a sexual awakening At the beginning of the novel Esperanza is not quite ready to emerge from the asexuality of childhood She is completely ignorant about sex and says that boys and girls live in completely different worlds She is so much a child that she cannot even speak to her brothers outside of the house When she becomes an adolescent she begins to experiment with the power she as a young woman has over men Marin teaches her fundamental facts about boys but the first major step in Esperanza s awareness of her sexuality is when she and her friends explore the neighborhood in highheeled shoes She relishes the power the shoes seem to give her and she plays with the idea that physical beauty could help her escape the squalor of her surroundings Esperanza quickly learns however that the patriarchal society in which she lives denies the power of female sexuality The bum who attempts to kiss Rachel is the first in a series of men who will use force to take what girls don t want to give freely After being sexually assaulted Esperanza decides to try to forget some of what she has learned about sex in the past year in order to focus on writing By the end of the novel Esperanza s views on sex have evolved and she rejects sex as a means of escape Esperanza s moral sense develops from an intense individualism to a feeling of responsibility toward the people in her community As a child Esperanza wants only to escape Mango Street Her dreams of selfdefinition don t include the fact that she has any responsibility to her family or to the people around her and she wishes to leave them all behind Once Esperanza has become familiar with the people in her neighborhood however she begins to feel affection and ultimately responsibility for them She no longer sees herself as an individual striving for self determination Instead she recognizes herself as a member of a social network who must give back to her community in order to break the cycle of poverty that plagues the neighborhood Esperanza also develops feelings of moral responsibility toward her community of women Her negative experiences as Sally s friend show that she has the courage to try to help her friends even if they do not always understand that they need to help her as well Not until she talks with the three sisters and Alicia however does Esperanza understand that helping the neighborhood women will be a lifelong effort Esperanza s final and most important awakening is her realization of her writing ability which gives her the means to escape from Mango Street Because Esperanza is a writer she is a keen observer and we see her powers of observation mature She is present in all of the early stories she narrates but by the middle of the novel she is able to narrate stories based wholly on observation of the people around her This change shows that she is becoming an artist and also that she is becoming more detached from her neighborhood since she does not always see herself in the stories she tells By the end of The House on Mango Street she knows she has become more detached from her home through her writing Although she has not yet found a home of her own her writing has helped her to nd privacy within herself 2 SALLY When Esperanza begins desiring boys she seeks out a friend in Sally whom boys find desirable Sally seems to be beautiful and cruel like the women Esperanza admires in movies She leans against the fence at school and doesn t talk to anyone Rumors about Sally s promiscuity circulate but Esperanza doesn t believe them Instead she thinks of Sally as a kindred spirit someone who also spends her time dreaming of escaping the neighborhood Sally however is not interested only in driving boys crazy and then laughing them away as the women in the movies do Instead she finds safety and comfort in sex feelings she does not find at home with her abusive father Sally s sexual exploits make Esperanza uncomfortable since at this point Esperanza is interested in sex only abstractly Eventually this discomfort becomes extreme and Sally ends up putting Esperanza in physical danger Sally herself changes little but Esperanza s understanding of her changes dramatically Esperanza s experiences as Sally s friend make Esperanza realize she has tried to mature too quickly In the end Sally is a pitiable not enviable figure in Esperanza s life 3 NENNYAs the younger sister Nenny is often Esperanza s responsibility and though her innocence is a major source of annoyance for Esperanza it also signals Nenny s independence In many ways Nenny is a pesky little sister Esperanza must introduce Nenny to her new friends and keep her away from bad in uences such as the Vargas kids Nenny also has qualities that Esperanza covets including two names Nenny is short for Magdalena pretty eyes and shiny straight hair Though Nenny can be a nuisance and a tagalong and her actions often embarrass and annoy Esperanza she frequently demonstrates her independence When Esperanza Rachel and Lucy make up chants about hips Nenny recites old chants that everyone already knows Similarly when Rachel and Lucy describe clouds with creative metaphors Nenny gives the clouds everyday names such as Jose and Alicia Nenny s apparent refusal to be creative embarrasses Esperanza but her choices suggest she has her own way of surviving on Mango Street Nenny and Esperanza don t seem very much alike but their differences in age and sociability mask their fundamental similarities Nenny and Esperanza laugh at the same things even those things others don t understand are funny More important Nenny and Esperanza are both dreamers While Esperanza imagines a world outside the barrio Nenny turns the outside world into the barrio by giving the clouds the same names as her neighbors By doing so she enlarges her world and makes it bearable She turns Mango Street into the center of the universe a place where she can be happy Nenny and Esperanza are also very steadfast in their ideas though Nenny is less likely to go along with the other girls if her views differ While Esperanza Lucy and Rachel bounce ideas off each other Nenny pursues her own idea She is not distracted from her dreams even when the other girls give her dirty looks Despite Nenny s similarities to Esperanza Nenny does not have as much a part in Esperanza s narrative as other women Esperanza observes most of the women in her life closely and gives each of them a chapteri except for Nenny Nenny ultimately recedes from view as Esperanza pursues life beyond Mango Street 4 Rachel Y Lucy Esperanza s best friends Rachel and Lucy are MexicanAmerican sisters who live across the street from Esperanza Lucy the older sister was born in Texas while Rachel the younger was born in Chicago Esperanza eventually chooses a more sexually mature friend Sally 5 MARINA young woman from Puerto Rico who lives with her cousin s family Marin spends most of her time babysitting and so cannot leave the house She sells makeup for Avon and teaches Esperanza and her friends about the world of boys Although she has a fiance back in Puerto Rico she also dreams about American men taking her away from Mango Street to the suburbs At the end of the year her cousins send her back to Puerto Rico 6 Papa Esperanza s father Originally from Mexico Papa is less domineering than the other father figures in the neighborhood He works most of the time and is rarely home 7 Mamma Esperanza s mother Mama grew up in the United States She is one of the strongestwilled and smartest women in the novel yet she seems to in uence Esperanza very little She is sometimes a source of comfort for Esperanza All of her admirable attributes are lost on Esperanza because Mama has not escaped Mango Street to live somewhere nicer 8 Alicia Esperanza s friend who attends a local university Since Alicia s mother died her father forces her to take over the family s domestic chores Alicia is a rare example of a neighborhood girl who has not tried to escape the neighborhood through marriage but instead works hard and hopes to change her life from within 9 Cathy Esperanza s first friend in the neighborhood Cathy s family moves out the week after Esperanza s family moves in She discourages Esperanza from becoming friends with Rachel and Lucy She is one of the few characters who is not from Mexico or Latin America 10 Carlos Y Kiki Esperanza s younger brothers Carlos and Kiki appear infrequently and Esperanza explains that they live in a different male world 11 Meme Ortiz The new resident of Cathy s house Meme s real name is Juan and he has a dog with two names 12 Louie The eldest sibling in a Puerto Rican family that lives in the basement of the Ortiz house Louie is friends with Esperanza s brothers while Esperanza is friends with Louie s cousin Marin Louie s other cousin appears once with a stolen car only to get arrested later that afternoon 13 The Vargas Kids An unspecified number of poorly raised vagrant siblings whose father has abandoned them One of the Vargas kids Angel Vargas dies by falling from a great height 14 Uncle Nacho Esperanza s friendly uncle who gets her to dance at her cousin s baptism in Chanclas 15 Aunt Lupe Esperanza s aunt In her youth Lupe was a vibrant beautiful swimmer but now she is old blind and bedridden She listens to Esperanza s poems and encourages her to keep writing but Esperanza and her friends mock Lupe behind her back 16 Elenita A witch woman Esperanza visits to have her fortune told Elenita reads Tarot cards and tells Esperanza that she will have a home in the hea 17 Ruthie A childish grownup neighbor who enjoys playing with Esperanza and her friends Ruthie s mother Edna is a landlady for the large building next door and ignores Ruthie 18 Geraldo A Mexican man Marin meets at a dance Geraldo dies in a car accident the evening she meets him Nobody including Marin knows anything about him including his last name 19 MAMACITAThe overweight Mexican wife of another neighbor Mamacita comes to America at great expense to her husband but she is wildly unhappy She never learns English and never leaves her third oor apartment 20 Rafaela A neighborhood woman whose husband locks her in their apartment because he is afraid she ll run off Rafaela sends money down on a clothesline to Esperanza and her friends so they can buy her sweet juices from the convenience store 21 MINERVAThe married woman in the neighborhood who is most similar to Esperanza Minerva and Esperanza share their poems with each other She is only two years older than Esperanza but already has a husband and two children Her husband leaves for long periods only to return in a violent rage 22 Tito A neighborhood boy who relates to girls in violent and sexual ways Tito irts with Esperanza by pushing her in front of an open fire hydrant and later he steals Sally s keys in order to get her to kiss him and his friends 23 Sire Esperanza s first crush Sire sometimes stares at Esperanza and though she is afraid she tries sometimes to look back at him Sire and his girlfriend Lois hang around outside late at night Esperanza s father tells her Sire is a punk and Esperanza s mother tells her Lois is the kind of girl who will go with a boy into an alley 24 Earl A neighbor who works nights and tries to sleep during the day Earl sometimes brings women home with him for short periods The neighbors see these women at different times and each thinks a different woman is his wife but the women are probably prostitutes 25 The Three Sisters Old ladies Esperanza meets at Lucy and Rachel s baby sister s wake The three sisters are mysterious and guess Esperanza s hopes and dreams They adVise Esperanza always to return to Mango Street after she leaves it


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