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Essay on ‘The House on Mango Street’: Critical Analysis Essay – Free Essay Example

The initial colloquial tone and antiliterary voice that pervades Sandra Cisneros`s The House on Mango Street is a deceiving ruse that initially conceals a narrative that employs its voice to question longstanding societal structures and hierarchies. The narrative voice of Esperanza reflects her own personal quest for agency, one that defies the previous lack of opportunities afforded to women in her position and in her family. This is both a vocal act of defiance, as the novel`s story follows Esperanza and her own quiet war as she becomes the one who leaves the table like a man, but also a physical rebelliousness; the vignette structure that holds the reader at the mercy of Esperanza`s memory is uncommon and reveals ingrained assumptions concerning issues such as class and gender that traditionally ostracize the individuals on Mango Street. Karen W. Martin describes The House on Mango Street as an attempt to give voice to the marginalized protagonists and the strategies by which these young women attempt to transgress gendered borders and gain corporeal mobility voice, therefore, is equated to a position of power afforded to women that do not usually hold such authority, and the character’s ability to manipulate voice and language is what determines what their future will hold. The reformation of Cisneros`s approach, in both her form and her protagonist, lays the foundation for voice to be powerful, encompassing positions to the communities she depicts are not usually granted access to.

It is important that Esperanza`s lyrical narrative voice is one of a child for much of the novel, for it allows for the development and subsequent social awareness across the text that can be analogous to the reader. As proposed by Marek, she must develop her understanding of ideas such as racism and sexuality with only accidental clues from the adult world and inadequate data from her peers. Esperanza`s maturity and understanding eventually grow as she reports and construes with the lives around her, a picture both the reader and Esperanza can piece together and deduce the importance of as the novel progresses. It also becomes significant for Esperanza`s dominant struggle of who she is and who she would like to be because her voice is able to develop parallel to her physical and emotional maturity. Because the pragmatic viewpoint of an experienced adult is absent, it allows Cisneros to use Esperanza`s voice to explore ideas of sexuality and female limitation from an unfiltered perspective. On account of Esperanza`s naïve frame of reference, it means the language is idiomatic, simple English in both its words and phrases. Her attraction to Rachel and Lucy as potential friends in Our Good Day is described in simplistic terms I like them. Their clothes are crooked and old. The straightforwardness of her attraction to them is reflected in the unembellished language she uses to describe them. However, this uncomplicated structure is misleading. Her childlike naivety is used against the reader to create a special effect between the child`s innocent report of a situation and the reader’s knowing interpretation. Tension can therefore be established as a result of the juvenile voice within the novel and the gravity of some of the situations Cisneros depicts.

This is particularly evident in The First Job, where Esperanza`s nave trust in her work colleague stems from her adolescent perspective of the world. Sitting in the coatroom of her job, an older man approaches her, asking if she would please give him a birthday kiss, with the encounter results in the man grabbing Esperanza`s face with both hands and kissing her hard on the mouth. Esperanza`s innocent kindness towards the man causes her to be assaulted, her naivety placing her at the mercy of her sexuality. Due to the tension created by making Esperanza`s voice one of an inexperienced child, the harsh social realities of the world are exposed and can be explored. The child`s innocence is played against the novel`s audience, for the mature reader understands the gravity of the situation that has taken place, but Esperanza herself does not. This allows for a more heart-breaking takeaway, as prior to and including this instance, Esperanza`s view surrounding love has been clouded with guilelessness. For her to take the same manner with this encounter, unknowingly trusting the man because of his nice eyes, creates a frustration that can only be felt from an experienced mature perspective. The narrating voice controls our spectrum of understanding as the reader, and Esperanza`s inexperienced frame of mind means voice in the novel allows for the pains of adolescence and sexual curiosity to be combined and developed as the story progresses.

Esperanza`s writing voice allows her to both experiences and later embody physical freedom and belonging, granting herself the ability to translate her bad experiences into beautiful language. This is encapsulated by both the vignette structure of the novel, and the poetic tone many of the passages express. The use of metaphors, with Esperanza likening herself to a red balloon tied to an anchor, lyrically encapsulates how her desire to take flight is jeopardized by the gender and racial challenges she faces. Her freedom is not yet limited to tone alone, her independence is reflected in how the narrative is framed. In one of the final vignettes, A House Of My Own, Esperanza likens her endless possibilities that a new home will provide her with to what poetry and her voice has created a space for herself to go, clean as the paper before the poem. Her voice, one that has rejected the expectations projected upon her, has acted as another method in which Esperanza defies the boundaries placed upon her.

Arguably, this structural framing of her voice reflects the commentary Cisneros hoped to provide, with her rejection of the idealized bourgeois home being paralleled by the non-traditional narrative structure. Furthermore, the stories Esperanza tells are not sequential, rather the reader is left at the mercy of her memory. The chronology of the events, nor the comparisons made, are clarified. Rather, the emotional significance is made paramount, leaving it difficult to determine where the development of the story is transgressing. A vignette that is seemingly less significant upon the first appearance, such as A Rice Sandwich, instead portrays an imperative message in highlighting the racial and economic inequalities a family such as Esperanza’s is subject to the nun forces Esperanza to point at the row of ugly three-flats, the ones even the raggedy men are ashamed to go into, subjecting her to feelings of shame in relation to a situation she is not in control of. Despite this, there is a subtle narrative unity that allows the vignettes to be connected through Esperanza’s voice, through her questioning tone of the world and its social and moral conventions. This demonstrates how the voice in The House on Mango Street is indicative of power; the unique narrative Esperanza constructs becomes both a vessel and a harness for her newfound independence. It grants her authority because she acts as the method in which to focus the reader’s attention in particular directions. The formation of the novel is important in relation to voice in The House on Mango Street the emblematic space Esperanza builds should not be detached from her writing, for her writing itself is the creation of her own space. By doing this, she is both metaphorically and directly making her own space in the world.

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Esperanza is on a quest for agency, trying to construct her life and consequently her story, on her own terms. Subsequently, a voice in The House on Mango Street is used as a method by Esperanza to pursue her independence and attain authority, a sharp defiance from the women in her family before her. Esperanza is a young girl surrounded by examples of women who have been abused, dispirited, and subdued, but the woman she hopes to be is independent. Esperanza is only able to separate herself from the paths the women before she have paved is because she is able to create a voice for herself through her writing and poetic expression. Her voice acts as a tool of self-invention that allows her to invent herself as a prospective writer if she acknowledges her community. Her writing power allows her to escape from and reflect upon challenges she sees the women around her facing, in the form of domestic abuse or social hostility. This gives her a purpose to escape this cycle she sees repeating around her, diverting away linguistically in order to move from the social disparities her community faces. This notion is displayed in Linoleum Roses, as Esperanza comments on Sally`s marriage: Sally got married like we knew she would, young and not ready but married just the same. This illustrates Esperanza`s awareness of the patriarchal Mexican American society that she exists in, one that typically silences female voices and desires. As a reaction to this, Esperanza places herself in an authoritative position through her writing voice in order to escape these conventions.

Furthermore, because Esperanza has the ability to have an expressive writing voice equates her to a position of power, as expressed by Brunk – by having Esperanza as the narrative voice, Cisneros is empowering someone who is normally not seen as possessing authority in the world a young Hispanic female. The authority her writing voice allows her elevates her above the women in her community in terms of the power afforded to her; she is able to provide a commentary on their situations where they are silenced. It is clear that Esperanza is moving away from the conventions that have historically restricted the women in her family, declaring I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window. The motif of windows is one that is frequently used within the novel, and works to highlight the societal restrictiveness women faced. These trapped women regrettably do not accept their cages blindly. Rather, they are always aware of the world that is off-limits to them, in view through the glass that separates them from their freedom. Esperanza’s recognition of this position that is afforded to the women around her, and her determination to not follow the same fate, separate her from them. It is because of her voice that she can do this; she dares to rebel against her oppressive world, resulting in independent speech and the creation of spaces where women are able to develop their abilities and dreams. She is able to learn that she belongs to herself and not a place, both Mango Street and the real house that she aspires to own from the very beginning.

The division between the English and Spanish voices within the novel perhaps underscores the correlation between the female voice and positions of power. Within The House on Mango Street, it can be said that it is the English voice that holds the more prosperous position, with the Spanish speakers not being afforded the same standing in regard to forging personal identity and available opportunities. This disparity between the two voices can be made evident through Esperanza’s description of her name. She describes the English translation as meaning hope whereas in Spanish it means too many letters. By placing the two languages in direct juxtaposition, it categorizes the English voice as one that is far more fortunate, with its connection to hope. This separation dictates Esperanza’s future specific language choices, where her preferences seem to be dominated by the hegemonic influences which force a young woman to prefer such a variety of English as a tool for fitting into her context, as promoted by Regina Betz. Esperanza rejects the meaning of her Spanish name despite its importance in relation to her ancestry and tradition and instead focuses on the laudatory and encouraging English translation. The English voice is given power and prosperity in the eyes of Esperanza, as a result of the cultural bias that is prevalent in relation to the Spanish voice. As a result, Esperanza arguably abandons and dismisses a portion of her heritage in order to seek vocal independence and control.

This cultural bias is depicted through the lives of the characters that can only speak Spanish, and their livelihood and opportunities are consequently restricted. In No Speak English, the character of Mamacita is isolated not only from the English-speaking society around her but also from her own family on account of her voice and language alone. Mamacita’s refusal to speak English results in personal tragedy in the form of the baby boy who has begun to talk and starts to sing the Pepsi commercial he heard on tv. Her status as an immigrant places a separation between herself and her own child, with the culture she holds in such high esteem being lost among the new future generations. If a voice is equated to power within the novel, this is why Mamacita is so helpless in her situation; she has been stripped of a maternal right, and a connection with her own child because she cannot speak English.

Perhaps this example and the character of Mamacita only work to support the suggestion that Esperanza is able to have a powerful voice because she can speak both languages. In contrast to Mamacita, Esperanza moves between English and Spanish, indicating that she is in control of at least one of the factors that isolate other women. Her reluctance to speak the Spanish language may suggest her apathy in being confined by the situations it creates. Esperanza almost negates the language, perhaps suggesting why she is able to be successful in her desire to move away from the community that restricts female opportunity. A new narrative perspective is formatted to display the linguistic conflict between the two languages, consisting of the merging of the two in Esperanza’s voice. Another explanation to explain Esperanza’s preference for the English voice could be because of the largest English-speaking United States in which Cisneros was writing. It can be said that this is a way for Cisneros to connect to listeners outside a community such as Mango Street so these exterior perspectives will be able to empathize with and understand the difficulties facing these women. Arguably, it is important that the voice in the novel is primarily English, in order for Cisneros’s message to have reach and influence outside of the Spanish, in a way reflective of the impact Esperanza herself wishes to have. Due to this, Esperanza can transgress between the two vastly different worlds, which gives her a unique, spatial perception. Therefore, she is able to design a space for herself in which she is able to highlight the restrictive position that the women around her hold and offer them help in a way that they are not afforded.

Esperanza’s narrative voice allows for not only the development of her own independence but a way for her to understand and express the voices of previously silenced men and women in her community. She communicates areas of these people’s lives that they have not had the prior opportunity to convey, accentuating the dominating power that voice holds within The House on Mango Street. Her authoritative voice can be characterized by deterritorialization, physical instability, and disappointment in the myth of America as the land of equal opportunity Esperanza’s apathy in the lack of opportunities available to her within her community is what drives her determination to have an independent and powerful voice. The vignette structure allows for a clear picture of the community that occupies Mango Street, one that Esperanza defies by being vocal where they are silent. Her talent for writing results in her being able to create her own speech, reconstructing the spaces around her into places of inclusiveness and opportunity rather than silence and oppression. This is what makes the voice in The House on Mango Street powerful; Esperanza resolves her questions about identity and future prospects by creating her own space.

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