What role does death play in The House on Mango Street? How do the many deaths in the novel relate to one another, and how do they influence Esperanza?
Five people die in
Angel Vargas is the first character to die in
What role does magic or the supernatural play in The House on Mango Street? How does it affect and influence Esperanza?
Esperanza encounters women she associates with magical powers twice in the novel. The first time, she seeks out Elenita, a witch woman, who gives her an unsatisfactory Tarot card reading. The second time, three sisters Esperanza describes as not related to “anything but the moon” speak to her at a wake. In both cases, the women speak truth in their own way. Elenita tells Esperanza she will have a house in the heart, and eventually Esperanza finds exactly that, through the solace writing gives her. The sisters tell Esperanza that her wish for a house away from Mango Street will come true. While Esperanza never actually leaves Mango Street, her assured voice in the last chapter suggests she will do so eventually, and that when she does, she will heed the sisters’ advice and return to help others.
Even though these women are prescient in some ways, it is difficult for Esperanza to believe or understand them. When she is with Elenita, Esperanza lies about her hand feeling cold. Elenita’s apartment seems more normal than spiritual to Esperanza, since she hears a Bugs Bunny cartoon and a crying baby in the background. She is disappointed by Elenita’s prophecy. Esperanza is more willing to believe the sisters’ prophecy because they predict that Esperanza will get what she wants. However, she is confused by their advice to return to the neighborhood. Esperanza does not see the supernatural in her Aunt Lupe, but her aunt’s advice, that writing will set her free, is just as perceptive as the advice she receives from Elenita and the sisters. What Esperanza sees as magic may actually be just sound advice.
Discuss the role of parents in the novel. How can Esperanza’s relationship with her parents be characterized? In what ways is it different or similar to other characters’ parent/child relationships in the novel?
Esperanza defines herself as being completely
separate from her parents. For most of
Despite Esperanza’s efforts to be independent of her parents, they do play a crucial role in her life. All around Esperanza are examples of bad parents: Sally’s father beats her, Minerva’s father left her mother, Minerva’s husband leaves his children, and the Vargas kids’ father has abandoned them. Similarly, Ruthie’s mother Edna shows no love for her daughter, and Tito’s mother does not care how Tito behaves toward girls. Esperanza’s parents at least set a good example and try to instill values in their daughter. They advise Esperanza not to hang around with Sire, a neighborhood punk, and Esperanza’s mother tells her never to be ashamed as she was in her youth. Her parents show that they value education highly by sending their children to a private Catholic school they can barely afford. Esperanza may not like where her parents have chosen to live, but at least their home is not dangerous, which might force Esperanza into early marriage as a way of escape. Though Esperanza may not acknowledge or appreciate them, her parents are significant role models.