“For the Ones who cannot out”
Esperanza’s name means hope, and her legacy she leaves behind can give the trapped women in her neighborhood faith that they too will be able to leave this place behind. In Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, Esperanza Cordero realizes that she really can’t leave from Mango Street, a rundown neighborhood in Chicago. In Esperanza’s journey, she yearns to leave while other women such as Sally, Minerva, and Rafaela aspire to do so as well but have failed to escape the neighborhood they are succumbed to. This dream of moving away from Mango Street is a common desire between these women, yet their ways of attempting to fulfill their dreams are crushed by controlling men and they end up right where they started.
Esperanza seeks out a friend in Sally. Sally is a gorgeous girl that Esperanza’s mom calls “dangerous” (p. 32), and her dad says that she’s so beautiful its “trouble” (p. 32). Sally is Esperanza’s experienced guide to all things glamorous and sexual. Sally’s life at home is troubling because her dad physically abuses her. He beats her when boys look at her and tells her that she isn’t his daughter. Even though she is only in the eighth grade, Sally meets a marshmallow salesman who takes her to a state where they can legally get married. Esperanza says “she says she is in love, but I think she did it to escape” (p. 101). Sally finds a way out of Mango Street with this man who she believes will give her a better life. After they are married, Sally sees that he has control and anger issues. He doesn’t allow her to go outside or talk on the phone with her friends. She claims to be content but in reality she has married a man exactly how her father was and is back to living the way she was at the no-escape Mango Street.
Being held like a prisoner, “locked indoors because her husband is afraid she will run away since she is too beautiful to look at” (p. 79) lives
Rafaela. Young and captive in her own home, Rafaela is “getting old from leaning out the window too much” (p. 79). She sits in a window and watches the kids playing, wishing she could be out in the world. She watches and wishes so long that the kids forget she is there until she asks them “if I give you a dollar will you go to the store and buy me something?” (p. 80). The fact that she cannot even leave to go buy herself a drink shows how caged she really is. Rafaela just wants to go and dance at least once before she gets old which shows that like the other women, she is trapped in the cycle of mental abuse, control, and the engulfing Mango Street.
Being slightly older than Esperanza “but already has two kids and a husband who left” (p. 84) is Minerva. Minerva is a sad sad girl, so sad “like a house on fire- always something wrong” (p. 84). She is yet another woman who is trapped on Mango Street. Her husband left her and keeps on leaving so she gets sick of it and kicks him out. He comes back and apologizes and Minerva allows him to come back home, only to be beaten “black and blue” (p. 84). Esperanza can clearly see how unhappy she is and that she has lost so much at such an early age. Esperanza “doesn’t know which way she’ll go” (p. 85), there isn’t anything she can do.
Esperanza longs for a house that is her own, somewhere that isn’t anywhere near a place like Mango Street where the “sad red house, the house I belong but do not belong to” (p. 110) is. In Esperanza’s journey she realizes that she can’t end up being an unhappy, broken woman with no life, sitting in a window craving to be free like Sally, Minerva, and Rafaela. All those women have aspired to do so as well but have failed to escape the neighborhood they were succumbed to. This dream of moving away from Mango Street is a common desire between them all, yet their ways of attempting to fulfill their dreams were crushed by power hungry, abusive men and they end up right where they started. Esperanza’s name means hope, and the legacy she leaves behind can give the confined women in her neighborhood faith that they too will be able to leave this place behind when she’s “gone away to come back for the ones I left behind. For the ones who cannot out” (p. 110).
Cisneros, Sandra. (1991). The House on Mango Street.
New York, NY: Vintage Books