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Themes

For a girl who feels as isolated as Esperanza does, making friends becomes an urgent and persistent goal. The House on Mango Street deals with the theme of friendship as Esperanza struggles to form connections with her peers and thinks about what her relationships mean. Esperanza experiences a wide variety of friendships over the course of the novel that seem to increase in intensity and meaning. From the obligatory time spent babysitting her little sister, to the spontaneous connections made with neighborhood girls over a shared bicycle, to the empathy and advice offered to her by Alicia, Esperanza grows more and more mature in her friendships.

Questions About Friendship

  1. How do Esperanza's notions of friendship change over the course of the book? What does it mean to be a friend at the beginning of the book when she meets Cathy, Lucy, and Rachel? What does it mean to be a friend to Sally at school? What does it mean to be friends with Alicia at the end of the novel?
  2. Can Esperanza's pledge to come back to Mango Street after she has gone out and made a place for herself in the world be seen as an expression of friendship?
  3. Why does Esperanza want so desperately to be Sally's friend?

Chew on This

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

Many of the friendships portrayed in this novel seem based around something trivial – like a gift, a shared bicycle, or the loan of a hairbrush – and something more significant. The trivial item often hints at the more significant emotion that binds two friends together.

Over the course of the novel, Esperanza establishes friendships that grow increasingly deeper and more meaningful. At the beginning of the book, Esperanza's friendships are easily formed and just as easily broken. By the end, Esperanza's friendships are based on a true commitment to improving the lives of people in her community.

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