There is a junk store in the neighborhood owned by an old black man. He doesn’t turn on the store lights unless he knows the customers have money. Esperanza’s family bought their refrigerator from this store, and Esperanza once bought a little Statue of Liberty there for a dime. The store is full are piles of mysterious old items with winding aisles between them.
The story begins to expand now to portray more of the peripheral characters of Mango Street, as Esperanza starts to explore her world. The owner of the store is the only black character in the novel, and so seems foreign to Esperanza (she is afraid to talk to him), which puts her own “otherness” in perspective.
Esperanza and Nenny wander through the maze of stuff in the dark. Esperanza is afraid to talk to the owner, but Nenny asks him lots of questions. One day Nenny asks him about a pretty box, and the old man opens it. It is a music box, and the song that plays is very moving to Esperanza. She tries to describe the music with images of moths, or drops of water, or marimbas. Esperanza has to turn away so Nenny won’t see her being “stupid” and crying. Nenny wants to buy the music box, but the old man says it isn’t for sale.
The themes of beauty and language are fully introduced here, as Esperanza starts to test her poetic sense by trying to describe the music with different images. The music moves her to tears, and clearly both Nenny and the owner are entranced as well, as the owner won’t sell the box. For all of them, the beauty of the music takes them out of their surroundings and lets them escape to a better place in their mind, and also momentarily joins them together in the experience of beauty despite their differences.