The House on Mango Street

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The Monkey Garden Symbol Analysis

The Monkey Garden Symbol Icon
At a family party Esperanza gets new clothes but must wear her old saddle shoes, and she is so ashamed of them that she won’t dance with a boy she wants to. When she finally dances with her uncle, her feet feel large and embarrassing. Later in the book, Sally’s black suede shoes symbolize her sexual maturity, and Esperanza envies them as she befriends Sally. In the monkey garden, when Esperanza is being mocked by Sally and the boys, her own feet feel foreign to her – she is conflicted between her desire to be attractive and her desire to be free of male dominance.

The Monkey Garden Quotes in The House on Mango Street

The The House on Mango Street quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Monkey Garden. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language and Names Theme Icon
). 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 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.


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The Monkey Garden Symbol Timeline in The House on Mango Street

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Monkey Garden appears in The House on Mango Street. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 38: The Monkey Garden
Language and Names Theme Icon
Dreams and Beauty Theme Icon monkey moves away, and the children of Mango Street take over the abandoned “ monkey garden .” It is full of beautiful, exciting plants and animals, and it becomes a magical... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
One day Esperanza, Sally, and some other kids are in the monkey garden . Esperanza wants to play with the younger children, but Sally stays on the curb... (full context)
Gender and Sexuality Theme Icon
Identity and Autonomy Theme Icon
Dreams and Beauty Theme Icon
...finally gets up again her own feet and shoes look foreign to her, and the monkey garden seems foreign as well. (full context)