The House on Mango Street: Family Unity Essay
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a narrative about the importance of family unity in a neighborhood where families are being torn apart by poverty. As the oldest sister, Esperanza feels responsible for her siblings. She is a strong believer of family support and disproves of the Vargas’ large chaotic family. She protects her siblings from unhappiness by carrying the burden of death alone. Cisneros uses metaphors, allusion, and symbolism to convey the theme of family unity in The House on Mango Street.
Esperanza, the oldest sister in a large family, often feels repressed because she always needs to be responsible for her younger siblings. “Nenny is too young to be my friend. She’s just my sister and that was not my fault. You don’t pick your sisters, you just get them” (8). Esperanza accepts that being the oldest prevents her from having normal things, like a best friend. “Someday I will have a best friend all my own . . . Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor” (9).
Cisneros uses the metaphor of a red balloon being held down by an anchor to show that Esperanza feels tied down and held back by her siblings, and she wishes she could float and away and be free, like a red balloon. Esperanza sacrifices normal things to keep the family unified. The Vargas family is the loud and rude group of the neighborhood. Esperanza’s obvious distaste for their chaotic and unorganized family structure is distinctly defined; she evades the Vargas children throughout the book. Rose Vargas’ kids are too many and too much. It’s not her fault you know, except she is their mother and only one against so many. They are bad those Vargases” (29). Esperanza’s disproval of a large and disorderly family confirms her support for family unity, which is impossible if the family is too large. The chapter title, “There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do” (29), is an example of allusion; Cisneros is making a reference to the disorganized family in a popular nursery rhyme.
This helps Cisneros establish Esperanza’s disproval of large families in addition to her view on the Vargas family. The death of Esperanza’s grandmother shakes her family emotionally. It is the first time Esperanza sees her father cry and she quickly takes charge in order to keep family stability. She must remain strong and set an example for her younger siblings. “Because I am the oldest, my father has told me first, and now it is my turn to tell the others. I will have to explain why we can’t play. I will have to tell them to be quiet today” (57).
Her father, a symbol of strength and power in The House on Mango Street, has broken down. Esperanza takes it upon herself to become the new leader of the family in order for them to remain unified. In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros uses metaphors, allusion, and symbolism to convey the theme of family unity in a decentralized society. Esperanza takes on the responsibility of an older sister at a young age, protects her siblings from chaotic influences, and prevents her family from falling apart by taking on burdens alone to maintain family unity.