The House on Mango Street


Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street: Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Esperanza thinks that she is ugly and that her looks will leave her trapped at home. She thinks Nenny is prettier than she is, so Nenny has more options – Nenny wants a man to take her away, but she doesn’t want to have a baby right away like Minerva’s sister did. Esperanza’s mother tries to comfort her by telling her she will get prettier as she gets older, but Esperanza has decided “not to grow up tame” like the rest. She wants to be like the women in the movies who are “beautiful and cruel.” These women make men love them but they never give up their own power. Esperanza is beginning this “quiet war” by leaving the dinner table like a man, without pushing in her chair or cleaning up her plate.
Esperanza tries to find a solution to her inner conflict (of sexuality versus autonomy) by becoming like a femme fatale of the movies – that is, being sexual and desired by men, but also retaining all her own power and agency. Her first act of this new “self” is humorously small, but also tragic in its own way – by refusing to wash her dishes, she is only making more work for another woman, in this case her mother. Things will only be fair when leaving the table “like a man” no longer means being irresponsible and negatively affecting other women.
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