The House on Mango Street
How we cite our quotes:
In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing. (4.1)
Esperanza hates her name. Meaning "hope" in Spanish, her name carries a lot of connotations – it expresses her Mexican heritage as well as a sense of waiting or expectation. And it's long and difficult for her teachers at school to say, to boot. Esperanza's name just contributes to her sense of not belonging.
I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees. Esperanza as Lisandra or Maritza or Zeze the X. Yes. Something like Zeze the X will do. (4.6)
Esperanza's desire to baptize herself as Zeze the X gives us an idea of her playful and adventurous nature. It also suggests that Esperanza doesn't consider herself to be easily known – just like the X suggests, there's something hidden or unknowable about her identity.
All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. (12.3)
How much does ethnicity play into Esperanza's sense of identity? She makes fun of white people who are afraid of her Latino neighbors, but she admits that the residents of Mango Street are just as scared to go into a white neighborhood. Do Esperanza's observations suggest that people are all really basically the same, despite ethnic and cultural differences?