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The Symbolism of The House on Mango Street

By Gordon Woods Jan 01, 1996 452 Words
The Symbolism of The House on Mango Street

In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros addresses and develops the

themes of assimilation of the Chicano into American society, stereotypes, and the

treatment of the Chicana within her culture. These themes are brought out through the

experiences of Esperanza, a young Chicana character. The American society has tried to

make the Chicano fir into its culture and make him follow its way of doing things. The

Chicano has also 'voluntarily' tried to assimilate because of the negative attitudes towards

him and his culture. There are several problems with assimilation for the Chicano based

on cultural differences. The main difference is that Latin cultures are more spiritualistic

and the U.S. are more materialistic in nature. Stereotypical images of the Chicano have

developed. These shed a negative light onto this minority group. For instance, many

times the Chicano is portrayed as lazy or evil. Stereotypes such as these have made it

difficult for Chicano to succeed in this capitalistic society. The Chicana has had an

especially difficult time, because of her status as a minority woman. The old traditional

role in Mexican culture has also served to oppress these women. These themes are

intertwined throughout Cisnero's novel.

One was Cisneros brings out the theme of assimilation in The House on Mango

Street is through the concept of the 'American Dream.' The dream is to own a home. It

is a symbol of success in a materialistic world. Esperanza, the main character, expresses

this desire in 'A House of My Own.' (pg. 108)

Esperanza and her family, like a large portion of the Chicano minority, live in a

barrio. Her family had lived in several other places and had felt the pain of poverty. 'We

had to leave the flat on Loomis quick. The water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn't

fix them because the house was too old.' Experiences such as this fueled her own

'American Dream.'

Esperanza's personal identity was tied to the physical dwellings in which she lived.

The run down conditions of the buildings were signs of the poverty that entrenched her

family. She felt a sense of shame by being identified with her home. In the episode of 'A

Rice Sandwich,' she shows this shame and embarrassment when the Nun points out

Esperanza's home saying, 'That One? she said, pointing to a row of ugly three flats, the

ones even the raggedy men are ashamed to go into. Yes I nodded...(pg. 45). The wish for

a nice home is in a way a desire for a better self image.

The House on Mango Street also reflect the treatment of Chicanas within their

culture. This theme has been dealt with in many other Chicano works. It is more than just

a collection of barrio stories told by a young girl, it is an awakening to the conditions of

the Chicano and the Chicana in our society.

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