In the book The House on Mango Street, author Sandra Cisneros presents a series of vignettes that involve a young girl, named Esperanza, growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. Esperanza Cordero is searching for a release from the low expectations and restrictions that Latino society often imposes on its young women. Cisneros draws on her own background to supply the reader with accurate views of Latino society today. In particular, Cisneros provides the chapters “Boys and Girls” and “Beautiful and Cruel” to portray Esperanza’s stages of growth from a questioning and curious girl to an independent woman. Altogether, “Boys and Girls” is not like “Beautiful and Cruel” because Cisneros reveals two different maturity levels in Esperanza; one of a wavering confidence with the potential to declare her independence, and the other a personal awareness of her own actions and the decision to take action and wage her “own quiet war (Cisneros 89).
Author Sandra Cisneros was born in 1954 in the Latino section of Chicago (Encarta 1). Cisneros is an “American novelist, short-story writer, essayist, and poet (Encarta 1).” Her works have brought the perspective of the Mexican American woman into the “mainstream of literary feminism (Encarta 1).” She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Loyola University in 1976 and her Master’s Degree from the University of Iowa in 1978 (Encarta 1). The House on Mango Street is Cisneros’ first novel, and “is her most critically acclaimed (Encarta 1).” The novel is constructed with a “series of short interconnected chapters (Encarta 1).
” Cisneros writes of the “hopes, desires, and disillusionments of a young writer growing up in a large city (Encarta 1).” After reading The House on Mango Street, the reader is left with a greater sense of the everyday oppressions the “roles created for women in Hispanic society (Encarta 1).” Cisneros decides to accept the oppression as part of culture, but also detach from this view by telling women, old and young alike, to find their own independence. Cisneros uses Esperanza as a vehicle to express the power of womanhood and determination to reach certain goals.
In “Boys and Girls,” Cisneros introduces a gender separation that dominates Esperanza’s experiences. Esperanza is dissatisfied that she and her younger sister Nenny are paired as playmates; Nenny is “too young to be my friend (Cisneros 8).
Esperanza is dependent on her childhood and is like “a red balloon, a red balloon tied to an anchor (Cisneros 9).” This description reveals that Esperanza singles herself out of her differences, of which she seems keenly aware. She also considers her differences as a source of isolation, as she floats in the sky for all to see. She longs to escape, much like a helium balloon. The anchor hinders her flight, similar to the confines that her granted by her society. Cisneros supplies Esperanza with a small voice, but also with a tone of wishful thinking, which gives her the ability to be powerful.
“Beautiful and Cruel” marks the beginning of Esperanza’s “own quiet war” against machismo (Hispanic culture powered by men). She refuses to neither tame herself nor wait for a husband, and this rebellion is reflected in her leaving the “table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate (Cisneros 89).” Cisneros gives Esperanza a self-empowered voice and a desire for personal possessions, thing that she can call her own: Esperanza’s “power is her own (Cisneros 89).” Cisneros discusses two important themes: maintaining one’s own power and challenging the cultural and social expectations one is supposed to fulfill. Esperanza’s mission to create her own identity is manifest by her decision to not “lay (her) neck on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain (Cisneros 88).” Cisneros’ rough language and violent images of self-bondage reveal the contempt with which Esperanza views many of her peers whose only goal is to become a wife.
To learn how to guard her power from men, Esperanza looks to the example of the movie vixen “with (the) red red lips who is beautiful and cruel (Cisneros 89).” Esperanza gains strength in herself by accepting the situation she is in as it is, be acquiring a determination to leave it .