The House on Mango Street

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The House on Mango Street Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Esperanza and her family both want her to find a job, as her school is expensive and they need money. One day Esperanza comes home after letting a boy named Tito push her into the water of an open fire hydrant. Her Aunt Lala is in the kitchen, and she says that she has found Esperanza a job at a photo developing store. To get the job Esperanza just has to show up and lie that she is older than she is.
This is the first real example of flirting that Esperanza admits to. It flows with the previous sections where her sexuality began to emerge, and (along with her first job) seems to represent a healthy development for Esperanza, though this will be broken by the chapter’s end.
Themes
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Her job involves matching negatives with prints – it is easy work, but Esperanza is uncomfortable with the social aspect of the job. She is afraid to eat in the company lunchroom, so she eats lunch in the bathroom and takes her breaks in the coat room. One afternoon an old Asian man who works there greets Esperanza and offers to eat lunch with her the next day. Esperanza feels less nervous around him, but then the man asks Esperanza for a kiss, because he says it’s his birthday. Esperanza leans in to kiss his cheek, but then the man grabs her face and kisses her hard on the mouth.
Esperanza first sees the violent side of her potential sexuality here, as her innocent kiss turns into an assault by the old man, which foreshadows her later rape. Sexuality is no longer accompanied by dancing and rhymes as in the previous sections; here it something violent and oppressive. Esperanza begins to learn the sexual double standard of her society – she is becoming a woman, and most women are powerless on Mango Street.
Themes
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Foreigness and Society Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon