Esperanza’s mother muses regretfully that she could have done something better with her life. She can speak two languages, fix a TV, sing opera, and draw, but she can’t use the subway to get downtown. One day while cooking oatmeal she sings along with a Madame Butterfly opera record that she got from the library. Then she stops and warns Esperanza to stay in school and study hard – she needs to be able to take care of herself without a man. Esperanza’s mother describes how when she was younger she quit school not because she wasn’t smart enough, but because she was ashamed she didn’t have nice clothes. She seems disgusted with her former self.
Esperanza still doesn’t allow her mother to be a positive role model for her, simply because she is still stuck on Mango Street – she can’t use the subway to escape. But Esperanza’s mother is a positive force, and gives good advice here. Esperanza must not think she is more of a “smart cookie” than the other women, and she must take her mother’s advice to remain independent and in school, or else she will end up married young and trapped like the other women of Mango Street.