“’Ten stitches up to the top of the mountain. Add one stitch. Nine stitches down to the bottom of the valley. Skip one.’” So go Esperanza’s Abuelita’s crocheting lessons, symbolic sessions in which Abuelita attempts to impress upon Esperanza, the importance of seeing that life is a series of peaks and valleys rather than a straight line. There will always be setbacks, pitfalls, and skipped or missed chances and opportunities—nevertheless, perseverance is paramount, and one must never be “afraid to start over.” Throughout the novel, the act of crocheting, and the blankets and scarves Esperanza and Abuelita make both together and apart, serve as symbols of life’s randomness and the importance of both triumph and tragedy in building one’s character and finding one’s place in the world.
Crocheting Quotes in Esperanza Rising
“Now watch. Ten stitches up to the top of the mountain. Add one stitch. Nine stitches down to the bottom of the valley. Skip one.”
Esperanza picked up her own crochet needle and copied Abuelita’s movements and then looked at her own crocheting. The tops of her mountains were lopsided and the bottoms of her valleys were all bunched up.
Abuelita smiled, reached over, and pulled the yarn, unraveling all of Esperanza’s rows. “Do not be afraid to start over,” she said.
The blanket grew longer. And Mama grew more pale. Women in the camp brought her extra skeins of yarn and Esperanza didn’t care that they didn’t match. Each night when she went to bed, she put the growing blanket back over Mama, covering her in hopeful color.
“Anza, everything will work out,” he said.
Esperanza backed away from him and shook her head, “How do you know these things, Miguel? Do you have some prophecy that I do not? I have lost everything. Every single thing and all the things that I was meant to be. See these perfect rows, Miguel? They are like what my life would have been. These rows know where they are going. Straight ahead. Now my life is like the zigzag in the blanket on Mama’s bed. I need to get Abuelita here, but I cannot even send her my pitiful savings for fear my uncles will find out and keep her there forever. I pay Mama’s medical bills but next month there will be more. I can’t stand your blind hope. I don’t want to hear your optimism about this land of possibility when I see no proof!”
“As bad as things are, we have to keep trying.”
“But it does no good! Look at yourself. Are you standing on the other side of the river? No! You are still a peasant!”
With eyes as hard as green plums, Miguel stared at her and his face contorted into a disgusted grimace. “And you still think you are a queen.”