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Themes

When we first meet Esperanza in Esperanza Rising, we can tell she's a sweet kid—but we have no idea if she's really a good person. After all, it's pretty easy to be agreeable when you're super wealthy and everyone throws you big parties all the time. The real test of a person's character is how they act when the going gets tough, right?

Esperanza's parents and grandmother do their best to teach Esperanza some important lessons about patience, bravery, and kindness. And boy, do these lessons pay off. Esperanza keeps their words in mind as she's challenged by the death of her father, the loss of her home and fortune, and the difficulties of a new life in a strange country. It's not easy, and Esperanza definitely makes a few mistakes along the way. But ultimately we find out that this is a young lady with a lot of integrity.

Questions About Principles

  1. On the train, Mama seems to break all of her social "rules" when she confides in a poor egg woman named Carmen. She also reprimands Esperanza for being rude to a barefoot peasant girl. Why has Mama's behavior changed? Does Mama have a deeper set of rules that is guiding her actions?
  2. According to all the examples we see in the novel, what does it mean to be a good or virtuous person? Does Esperanza always behave this way? Is she ultimately virtuous or not?
  3. At the beginning of the novel, Esperanza's Papa teaches her the importance of being patient, saying: "Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand." Where else do we see this phrase repeated in the novel? How does this advice help Esperanza transition to a new life in the United States?
  4. Who are the biggest optimists out of all the characters in this novel? Why is it so important for them to remain optimistic?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The most important lesson that Esperanza learns from Mama is that nothing matters more than being with the people you consider your family.

Esperanza has to learn to be a virtuous person. On the train, she is judgmental and unkind to the other passengers. But she learns from this mistake, and makes up for it by treating several other characters with kindness and generosity.

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