The House on Mango Street

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The House on Mango Street Quotes

Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage Books edition of The House on Mango Street published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Mama, Papa
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

The House on Mango Street is, as its title suggests, a book about home. Cisneros’ protagonist, Esperanza, is very concerned with her family’s house and the houses her friends and neighbors live in. Esperanza remembers a time when a nun from her school passed by and insulted her family's old flat and she felt ashamed at the conditions her family lived in. 

For Esperanza, a house should be a symbol of safety and autonomy; and, it follows in her logic, a family's identity is closely tied to the home they live in. Esperanza's disappointment at the house on Mango Street fuels her dreams of the home she will own one day, and these reveries will recur throughout the book. Her parents assure her that the house on Mango Street is only a temporary stop for them, but even as a child Esperanza knows "how those things go." She knows they'll be there for a long time, if not forever. 

Domesticity might be the single most important concept that Cisneros explores throughout the book. It frees people in certain ways and traps them in others--we see people enjoying their homes, moving in and out of homes, and trapped inside their homes by various oppressive forces. 


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Chapter 3 Quotes

The boys and the girls live in separate worlds. The boys in their universe and we in ours.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

In the world of Esperanza's childhood, there is a stark division between boys and girls (and, accordingly, between men and women). Esperanza and the other children of the barrio learn the intricacies of their gender roles by watching neighbors treat each other in certain ways. The fact that these gender roles are already so clear to Esperanza and the other children is indicative of their prominence in their society; instead of a bunch of kids playing together, they are already boys and girls, divided into two separate worlds. 

As the book progresses, Esperanza witnesses the emerging sexuality of her peers and begins to encounter her own sexuality, too. This is a confusing state to be in, and Cisneros captures the confusion by blending these moments of sexual exploration with the brutality of gendered violence. Men beat their wives and daughters, and in most cases the sexual encounters in The House on Mango Street are unwanted. The boys and men of this book tend to take things, while the girls and women deal with the consequences. Esperanza knows all of this already, and it contributes greatly to her desire to escape Mango Street and the society it represents. 

Someday I will have a best friend of my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Another of Esperanza's great hopes is to have friends who understand her more completely than the other neighborhood children she spends her time with. Here, after reflecting on the separate universes of boys and girls, and then on the apparent impossibility of being friends with her younger sister Nenny, Esperanza turns as she often does to daydreaming. 

Interestingly, Esperanza imagines her best friend as someone who seems to understand her jokes without her "having to explain them." In other words, a best friend wouldn't need Esperanza to use as many words to get her points across. Esperanza's fantasy is of a friendship that is founded not on shared language but on a mutual understanding of one another that would precede language. 

Until she can find a friend like this, Esperanza muses, she is a "red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor." A red balloon would stand out, but it doesn't usually seem like Esperanza wants to "stand out" in a traditional sense. She's also tied to an anchor, unable to fly as she's meant to. So Esperanza's ideal friend would be someone she fits in with but also someone who helps her reach her full potential-- someone who doesn't hold her down as so many others seem to. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting… It was my great-grandmother’s name and now it is mine. She was a horse woman too, born like me in the Chinese year of the horse – which is supposed to be bad luck if you’re born female – but I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don’t like their women strong.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Language is another of the most important themes in The House on Mango Street, and the constant tension between English- and Spanish-speaking reflects the precarious, perhaps temporary, presence these characters have along Mango Street. The Spanish language marks Esperanza and the others as "foreign" to other people but also ties them to their culture and their families.

Within the category of language, names are especially important to Esperanza, who almost always notes the names of her neighbors as important parts of their vignettes. In this passage, Esperanza reflects on her own name. It's a family name, her great-grandmother's, and in this reflection Esperanza reveals a deep understanding of her own name; clearly she has asked her family about the name and remembered all the details. Named after her great-grandmother because they were both born in the Chinese year of the horse, Esperanza's personal history crosses the boundary to yet another culture. But even there, where "the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don't like their women strong," she cannot escape the realities of her society's gender roles.

Chapter 5 Quotes

You want a friend, she says. Okay, I’ll be your friend. But only till next Tuesday. That’s when we move away. Got to. Then as if she forgot I just moved in, she says the neighborhood is getting bad.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Cathy (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Esperanza always seems to be trying to make more friends, but here friendship is a fickle thing, ready to disappear when a family moves away from Mango Street. This is a humorous set-up, as Cathy offers her temporary friendship like a gift she'll soon take away. But Esperanza, always looking for friendship, will take what she can get and wants to befriend Cathy for now. 

Then, as if Esperanza needs another reason to feel "foreign," unwanted, and ashamed, Cathy says her family is moving because "the neighborhood is getting bad." Esperanza registers the pain she feels at hearing Cathy say this, searching for a reason Cathy might have let it slip. She decides it was "as if she forgot" Esperanza's family had just moved in, but before we learn how Esperanza comes to understand Cathy's remark, Cisneros moves to another vignette. This lack of resolution in her storytelling might reflect the impossibility of Esperanza's emotional resolution. 

Chapter 11 Quotes

And since Marin’s skirts are shorter and since her eyes are pretty, and since Marin is already older than us in many ways, the boys who do pass by say stupid things like I am in love with those two green apples you call eyes… And Marin just looks at them without blinking and is not afraid.

Marin, under the streetlight, dancing by herself, is singing the same song somewhere. I know. Is waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Marin
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Esperanza spends much of her time observing the other people who live on Mango Street and either replicating or resenting their behavior. But it's hard to tell how she feels about Marin, other than mystified by her sexuality and the way boys seem to gravitate toward her. Esperanza's feelings are obviously complex, and she might simultaneously desire what Marin has and feel disturbed by the way boys and men approach her to flirt. This complexity Esperanza reconciles by deciding the boys are saying "stupid things," as if trying to convince herself that she shouldn't want this to happen to her some day. 

The second paragraph of this passage changes tone abruptly, as Esperanza reflects at the time of her writing on what Marin might be doing now. Because Marin is a fictional character described to us by another fictional character, and has no reality apart from her existence in Esperanza's story, this is also the only way the reader is able to imagine her. As a writer, Esperanza (like Cisneros) has the power to decide how her characters end up. And Marin, like so many women of Mango Street, is stuck forever waiting for something to happen, for someone to "change her life." 

Chapter 12 Quotes

Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout most of this book, Esperanza presents Mango Street as a world of its own, isolated in many ways from the places around it. But in passages like this one, she reflects on the outside perception of her neighborhood. Like many inner city neighborhoods, Esperanza's barrio is stigmatized as "dangerous" and feared by people coming into it.

To Esperanza, this is almost incomprehensible--they are simply people trying to live their lives--so she decides that the people frightened of the barrio are "stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake." Because there is no basis for their fear, these outsiders must be stupid and lost. This is one way a young person might come to understand a fear they see in others but do not feel in themselves. 

Chapter 13 Quotes

No wonder everybody gave up. Just stopped looking out when little Efren chipped his buck tooth on a parking meter and didn’t even stop Refugia from getting her head stuck between two slats in the back gate and nobody looked up not once the day Angel Vargas learned to fly and dropped from the sky like a sugar donut, just like a falling star, and exploded down to earth without even an “Oh.”

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Angel Vargas, Rosa Vargas
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Like the gap Esperanza perceives between boys and girls on Mango Street, the gap between parents and children is often enormous. In a darkly comical way, Esperanza describes the way the Vargas children become so unruly that "everybody gave up" trying to keep them from getting themselves into trouble. This implies that people in the neighborhood usually look after one another's children, but that the Vargas family (who had too many children) became too much to handle. 

This passage also shows Esperanza using language to distance herself somewhat from what happens around her. A very disturbing event, Angel Vargas' failed flight, is sublimated through the fantastic images of the "sugar donut" and the "falling star." The reader is left to wonder what other things may have happened to this unfortunate family, whose mother is too busy and has too many children. 

Chapter 15 Quotes

Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of this vignette, Esperanza declares: "You can never have too much sky." The sky is the embodiment of freedom, both as a natural phenomenon and as a symbol of upward mobility ("the sky's the limit"). Esperanza frequently turns toward nature when humanity lets her down, and dreams of escaping from Mango Street into a natural paradise. 

But, still on Mango Street, "there is too much sadness and not enough sky." The natural beauty of the world is tainted by the everyday difficulty of getting by, and other beautiful things like butterflies and flowers are hard to find amidst all of Esperanza's disappointment at her current life. Yet she finds a certain hope in making "the best of it," and holding onto her dreams of a better future she continues to move forward. 

Chapter 17 Quotes

They are dangerous, he says. You girls too young to be wearing shoes like that. Take them shoes off before I call the cops, but we just run.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Mr. Benny (speaker), Magdalena “Nenny” Cordero, Lucy, Rachel, Mr. Benny
Related Symbols: Shoes
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

In the culmination of an episode suggesting Esperanza's attempts to figure out how she might fit into the world sexually, a number of people comment on the women's shoes Esperanza, Lucy, and Rachel have just received. This marks a first public appearance for Esperanza in clothing--high heels--that tends to connote sexuality. And people react in many different ways to the sight of the girls in women's shoes. 

Here, the grocer Mr. Benny warns the girls that wearing these shoes could be "dangerous," and threatens to call the police if they don't remove them. It's unclear what his intentions are; at first he seems to want to protect them, but when he threatens to call the cops this motive comes into question. No matter what Mr. Benny intends, his assertion that the shoes could be dangerous reflects how deeply gendered and sexual violence is a part of their daily life. The clothes and shoes that Esperanza and the other children wear can become signals for aggressive behavior, but the girls shrug off the possibility and continue on their way--still relatively innocent, for now.

Chapter 18 Quotes

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 even though I knew that wasn’t my house and started to cry… In the canteen, which was nothing special, lots of boys and girls watched while I cried and ate my sandwich, the bread already greasy and the rice cold.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Sister Superior (speaker)
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In one of the more tragic vignettes in The House on Mango Street, Esperanza tries to change some aspect of her daily life by gaining access to the school canteen. When the nuns don't let her stay for lunch at school, and Esperanza tries to explain that her house is too far, the head nun points to some house outside and claims it belongs to Esperanza's family.

Ashamed at the situation and upset, Esperanza doesn't correct the nun's mistake. Esperanza's unease with her family's living situation is central to the book, and here the nun is quietly brutal in her refusal to let Esperanza have a small victory and use the canteen. By the time Esperanza does go to the canteen, allowed to be there just for a day, she finds it unappealing and cries her way through a cold lunch. 

Chapter 21 Quotes

Then he asked if I knew what day it was, and when I said I didn’t, he said it was his birthday and would I please give him a birthday kiss. I thought I would because he was so old and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kisses me hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of many instances in The House on Mango Street where a girl endures an unwanted sexual advance from a man. Usually the men have some way of convincing the girls to kiss them; in this case the man claims he wants a birthday kiss and forces Esperanza to kiss him on the lips instead. 

These advances make Esperanza's own sexual growth an even more confused affair. It seems like, the more these men take advantage of her and her friends, the less willing she is to explore her own sexuality in the way she wants to. Instead, Esperanza tries to shut off this aspect of her life, insisting that boys and girls inhabit different universes entirely, and daydreams of an escape from the oppressive, sometimes frightening world of Mango Street.

Chapter 23 Quotes

That’s nice. That’s very good, she said in her tired voice. You just remember to keep writing, Esperanza. You must keep writing. It will keep you free, and I said yes, but at that time I didn’t know what she meant.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Aunt Lupe (speaker)
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Feeling guilty about it, Esperanza tells of the time she and her friends imitated a bedridden aunt; this reflection leads her to remember some of the last things her aunt said to her. Strangely, this aunt is one of the only people who speak directly to Esperanza about her writing. As in other vignettes in The House on Mango Street, the wisdom Esperanza might ignore as a kid probably ends up most important to her later in her life and her writing career. This is strongly suggested by Esperanza's confession that "at that time I didn't know what she meant."

The aunt, bedridden for some time, speaks of freedom through creativity, suggesting she's gained insight through her condition. In a way, this offers radical hope for Esperanza, who has also felt stuck for quite some time. But the reader, like the young Esperanza, has to wonder what it means for writing to keep someone free. 

Chapter 24 Quotes

What about a house, I say, because that’s what I came for.

Ah, yes, a home in the heart. I see a home in the heart.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Elenita (speaker)
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

Disappointed by what the fortune teller has told her thus far, Esperanza directly confronts the question most important to her: what about a house? Unfortunately, Elenita will not give Esperanza the reassurance that she wants--but she still offers some even more valuable information.

Throughout the book, arguably, Esperanza is building a "home in the heart," even as she longs more tangibly for a physical house. The "home in the heart" she is constructing as she grows up is her identity, autonomy, and sense of self--something that, if strong enough, does not have to be entirely shaped by external situations and surroundings, but instead provides a sense of both safety and freedom.

Chapter 26 Quotes

Ruthie sees lovely things everywhere. I might be telling her a joke and she’ll stop and say: The moon is beautiful like a balloon. Or somebody might be singing and she’ll point to a few clouds: Look, Marlon Brando.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Ruthie
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Among all the difficulties on Mango Street, certain characters find their own ways to be happy. Ruthie is one of these, and sees "lovely things everywhere" despite what seems like a tough living situation. It's not clear what makes Ruthie this way, or how old Ruthie might be (though Esperanza calls her a "lady," not a girl). And Ruthie's personality might also signal some detachment from reality or intellectual disability.

There's something poetic about Ruthie's presence in the book, in the sense that she sees beauty everywhere but doesn't achieve or even seek success in a traditional way. Ruthie offers a pure joy that is rare on Mango Street and in this book; in this way, she serves one of the purposes that Esperanza seems to hope her writing will serve too. 

Chapter 28 Quotes

Everything is holding its breath inside me. Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas. I want to be all new and shiny. I want to sit out bad at night, a boy around my neck and the wind under my skirt. Not this way, every evening talking to the trees, leaning out my window, imagining what I can’t see.

A boy held me once so hard, I swear, I felt the grip and weight of his arms, but it was a dream.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Esperanza is full of potential that is waiting to be realized, and this passage offers the most succinct depiction of this potential. She knows she has much more to do in her life, and puts it beautifully here: she is "waiting to explode like Christmas." On Christmas she gets "new and shiny" things, and she wants to achieve her own sort of rebirth as a "bad" girl, sitting with boys and alone no longer--but also in control of her own sexuality and fate. 

Esperanza's desire is to have these things, not simply to dream about them any longer ("imaging what I can't see"). She wants to cross over from the fiction she creates for herself into a real life closer to what she really wants. The desire to be "bad" might be a rebellion against the norms impressed upon her, but it also comes from a place of physical desire as we see when she remembers the dream of a boy holding her so tightly. 

Chapter 29 Quotes

Their strength is secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground. They grow up and they grow down and grab the earth between their hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is how they keep…

When I am too sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees… Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 74-75
Explanation and Analysis:

Right after her reflection on what she really wants-- to be with a boy and not in her house, looking at trees through her window-- Esperanza returns to thinking about the four trees outside her house. This is one of many vignettes that center nature as a place of refuge from the difficulties that society and other people bring into Esperanza's life. But, at the same time, Esperanza personifies the trees, giving them "hairy toes" and "violent teeth" like the men she so wants to escape. And like some of the women she thinks about, the trees' strength is "secret." 

Ultimately, the trees remind Esperanza that it's possible to hold on simply for the sake of holding on. The trees don't have the burden of feeling "too sad and too skinny," but they do have to grow through concrete. Like Esperanza, they are forced to thrive in an environment that would try to stop them from doing so.

Chapter 31 Quotes

On Tuesdays Rafaela’s husband comes home late because that’s the night he plays dominoes. And then Rafaela, who is still young but getting old from leaning out the window so much, gets locked indoors because her husband is afraid Rafaela will run away since she is too beautiful to look at.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Rafaela
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Rafaela is one of a few women in The House on Mango Street whose husbands control their behavior and lock them (in Rafaela's case, literally) into an almost entirely domestic existence. Leaning out the window, another common behavior for the women of this book, somehow makes Rafaela older; this might mean that her longing is wearing her out, as she looks out on the world from the house she's stuck inside. 

Her husband's great fear, that she is "too beautiful to look at," betrays either a mistrust of Rafaela (she'll be lured into infidelity) or of other men (they'll take advantage of her). Either way, Rafaela's husband clearly sees her as a possession that must be guarded, and fears that letting his wife have autonomy will result in some sort of catastrophe. And because this sort of controlling relationship is ignored, if not accepted, by other people, Rafaela is trapped inside her home. This reflects the nightmare flip-side of Esperanza's dream of a home for herself. A home can be a place of freedom and self-expression, or a domestic trap as it is for Rafaela and for the fairy-tale figure of Rapunzel, who is also mentioned in this vignette. 

Chapter 32 Quotes

Sally, do you sometimes wish you didn’t have to go home? Do you wish your feet would one day keep walking and take you far away from Mango Street, far away and maybe your feet would stop in front of a house, a nice one with flowers and big windows and steps for you to climb up two by two upstairs to where a room is waiting for you.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker), Sally
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Esperanza projects some of her own fantasies onto Sally, a girl whom Esperanza latches onto as a symbol of things she might not see in herself (like beauty, sexuality, or boldness). Esperanza sees the way Sally's demeanor changes drastically when she has to go home from school, and wonders if Sally also wants to get far away from Mango Street. 

When Esperanza imagines her dream homes, there is never anyone else inside, especially not a husband. In her dreams, homes are safe, open, ready to fulfill her own needs. This must be what Sally wants too, Esperanza figures. Perhaps, by telling these stories and imagining what other people want, Esperanza begins to feel less strange and less alone in what she desires. 

Chapter 34 Quotes

One day I’ll own my own house, but I won’t forget who I am or where I came from. Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I’ll offer them the attic, ask them to stay, because I know how it is to be without a house.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Esperanza assures herself and her readers that her achievement of her great goal of having a nice home for herself will not lead to her leaving her past behind. One of the great conflicts of this book is the difficulty of reconciling the desire to find a new home for oneself with the wish to honor the home one came from. Even if Esperanza doesn't see her family's house on Mango Street as her home, she realizes the importance of her family and neighbors, and of her community more broadly. This is why she plans to house "bums" in her attic. Esperanza wants to follow her escapist fantasies but still find a way to make the world a better place and honor the community she came from. Perhaps, then, her home can be a place of comfort not just for her but, occasionally, for the homeless too. 

Chapter 35 Quotes

In the movies there is always one with red red lips who is beautiful and cruel. She is the one who drives the men crazy and laughs them all away. Her power is her own. She will not give it away.

I have begun my own quiet war. Simple. Sure. I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

Usually Esperanza gets her ideas of how to be one type of woman or another from the girls and women she sees in her neighborhood, but in this case she remembers "the movies" and their trope of the femme fatale. 

This is one model around which Esperanza can shape her strong desire for both sexuality and independence--she wants to be desired by men, but she also doesn't want to end up as another "trapped woman" of Mango Street. Like the trees with their "silent strength," Esperanza here decides to wage a "quiet war" against the expectations placed upon her, weighing her down every day. Although this "quiet war" rather humorously only manifests itself here in her leaving the dinner table without cleaning up, this shows that Esperanza already understands the many ways her independence is restricted or looked down upon as a woman--she knows there is even a way to leave the table "like a man."

Chapter 38 Quotes

Somebody started the lie that the monkey garden had been there before anything. We liked to think the garden could hide things for a thousand years. There beneath the roots of soggy flowers were the bones of murdered pirates and dinosaurs, the eye of a unicorn turned to coal.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Monkey Garden
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

The monkey garden, occupied earlier in the book by a southern family that seems to scare Esperanza and the others away, is transformed (after the southern family leaves) into a mythical place. This is one of the only vignettes in which Esperanza plays energetically, liberated for at least a little while from the difficulties of living on Mango Street and losing herself in beauty and fantasy. 

Even still, Esperanza is aware of the "lie" being told about the monkey garden. This makes us wonder what separates lies from stories, because Esperanza is constantly dreaming and telling stories. What the kids "liked to think" is truer for them than anything else, and it's refreshing in a way to see Esperanza and the other kids dreaming about pirates, dinosaurs, and even a unicorn. 

Chapter 41 Quotes

When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.

Related Characters: The Three Sisters (speaker), Esperanza Cordero
Related Symbols: The Three Sisters
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

In this strange vignette, wherein Esperanza visits the home of her two friends and their recently deceased baby sister, Rachel and Lucy's three aunts remind us of the fortune teller from earlier in the book. They have a dreamlike presence, coming "with the wind" and "barely noticed" by the people of Mango Street (and perhaps echoing the Three Fates of classical Greek mythology). We might even wonder whether Esperanza dreams this passage or really experiences it. 

Either way, one of the aunts tells Esperanza to come back for her community when she leaves. The mysterious aunts, like a three-headed fortune teller, intuit Esperanza's desire to get far away from Mango Street and encourage her to do so only under the condition that she return for "the others"-- the same people Esperanza thinks she needs to escape. That Esperanza is bound to these people by their mutual residence on Mango Street is one of the main difficulties she faces. But the aunt tells her not to even try to escape Mango Street in an emotional sense. This wisdom seems to stick with Esperanza, who ends up writing all these vignettes as a kind of affirmation of the power her writing has given her--and using this power to figuratively "come back" for the trapped, powerless women of Mango Street.

Chapter 43 Quotes

Not a man’s house… A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed… Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Related Symbols: Shoes
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Esperanza dreams repeatedly of her future home, this is the most detailed image she conjures up. It won't be a "man's house," where she is forced to stay inside and do chores. A porch will mark her territory, and a pillow will offer her a permanent place to sleep. Other images from earlier in the book recur here: the flowers remind us of the Monkey Garden and the four trees outside her home on Mango Street, and the two shoes remind us of all the other shoes mentioned in her vignettes. In this way, her home will contain all the things that have been important to her throughout these stories; but they'll be hers, under her control, "clean as paper before the poem." The act of dreaming about her home is like writing for Esperanza; both are creative acts that give her a sense of her future and the freedom she can still attain. 

Chapter 44 Quotes

I 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 of books and paper. One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Esperanza explores one of her primary motivations for writing: self-liberation. By writing about Mango Street, Esperanza gains some distance from it. This is something of a paradox, because we might think that spending time thinking and writing about a place would only bring you more tightly into its grasp. But for Esperanza, language has the power to help her process events and let them go, at least somewhat. 

Still Esperanza dreams of letting Mango (here personified as a woman who is both constricting and liberating) go entirely. The "books and paper" that she wants to fill her very own house will allow her to distance herself from the painful and often shameful past she experienced on Mango Street. And there's an aspect of inevitability to Esperanza's escape: she is "too strong" to be stuck forever in a home that isn't really home to her, and so she no longer feels that desperate desire to escape--she knows it will happen, sooner or later.

They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out.

Related Characters: Esperanza Cordero (speaker)
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

In the closing moment of the book, Cisneros reflects through Esperanza's voice on the complexity of leaving one's community to become a writer. Esperanza imagines her friends and neighbors wondering where she went, and fears they will not know she "has gone away to come back." Having always dreamed of getting away, Esperanza is still aware of the way her departure might appear to her community-- as a desertion of the life she comes from. She plans to leave in order to better herself and return stronger to her community (whether literally or figuratively, through writing and memory), but cannot ensure that her neighbors on Mango Street understand this intention. 

The book closes with a sort of dedication from both Cisneros and her protagonist: "For the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out." If getting away from Mango Street is always Esperanza's dream, she still cares for the people there; and she hopes that her writing will offer some sort of liberation and affirmation for the people, like her, who feel trapped in a place that isn't exactly home. 

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