The House on Mango Street


Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Esperanza begins to tell a poetic, partially-rhyming fairy tale of a family with small, fat feet. She starts describing the feet of each family member and then the story blends into reality – it is a day when someone gives Esperanza, Nenny, Rachel, and Lucy a paper bag full of old high-heeled shoes.
Here Cisneros begins to blend the actual narrative of the story with poetry, as well as showing Esperanza’s story-telling voice. The image of shoes as symbols of sexuality begins in this chapter.
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The girls try on the shoes and are amazed at how long and womanly their legs suddenly seem. They strut about the neighborhood and a man named Mr. Benny warns them that such shoes are “dangerous” for little girls to wear, but they ignore him. Other boys and men catcall at them, and a bum flirts with Rachel, asking her to kiss him for a dollar. Lucy is frightened by this encounter and she makes the girls leave, and they all run home. Lucy hides the shoes under a basket on her back porch. Later Rachel and Lucy’s mother throws them away, but the girls are glad that they’re gone.
The dangerous world of men is fully revealed to the girls here. It is scary to be viewed as a sexual object by those who have physical and social power over them. For now they can discard their sexuality as easily as a pair of shoes, but soon Esperanza will have to deal with growing up – both the danger of her male-dominated society, and the pleasure she gets from being desirable.
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