Sandra Cisneros writes about many different aspects in her coming-of-age story The House on Mango Street. In a series of charming vignettes, Cisneros writes about the life, thoughts, and escapades of Esperenza Cordero, a little girl growing up in Chicago. She is able to write so in a way that draws the reader in and makes the characters and tales memorable, even though the book is split up into small chunks of stories. Some of the sections deal with deeper issues than merely a young girl’s whims, however. Cisneros frequently writes about people in her culture who are marginalized, particularly women through the voice of her character Esperenza.
Very early on in the beginning of the book, Esperenza tells the story of her great-grandmother and great-grandfather’s marriage. She was named after her great-grandmother, but she does not want to live the same life as she was forced to live. Her great-grandmother was wild and did not want to get married, so Esperenza’s great-grandfather kidnapped her and forced her into the marriage. Esperenza does not want to live forever looking out the window sadly, as her great-grandmother (and so many other women in The House on Mango Street) is forced to do. Esperenza goes on to tell the story of a woman named Marin, who says she is going to move to Puerto Rico to marry her boyfriend. While in Chicago, however, her life consists of trying to attract the attention of all the boys so that she can have a fairytale romance, which will change her life. She also talks about Alicia, who is struggling after the death of her mother to care for her younger siblings, attend college, and live with her abusive father. Perhaps one of the most tragic stories of all, however, is that of Rafaela, who gets locked in her apartment whenever her husband leaves because he is afraid she will run away. Esperenza and her friends buy her juice when she sends a dollar down to them. Sally, a beautiful girl and friend of Esperenza’s is beaten by her father. Esperenza tells of women who are not valued.
Another significant theme in Cisnero’s writings is that of sadness and how to cope with it. Many of the women in the story feel trapped and helpless, but they are not the only ones who are affected negatively by the up’s and down’s of life. Esperenza remembers a night when her Papa came home to say that his father is dead, and she is upset and unsure what to do when he cries about it. Esperenza also remembers a story about listening to her mother remember how smart she used to be, but she dropped out of school because of vanity; she did not have nice clothes. She regrets this decision, but cannot do anything about it because so much time has passed and she is busy raising a family now.
Although many (if not most) of Cisnero’s stories have a sad tone or message behind them, Esperenza (whose very name means hope) does not give up. She continues to hope, dream and look forward to having a home and a place to call her own. She sees past the racism, marginalization, and abuse that people (especially women) in her culture experience. She imagines a bright future in which she can be her own person and live her life as she wants it to be lived.