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Themes

Like many of the issues that come up in The House on Mango Street, social and class distinctions are discussed in a sort of oblique way. They're never given a name. Our protagonist, Esperanza, never comes out and says, "Hey, my family is poor!" No. That would be way too easy (and way too boring). Instead, we figure out that poverty and class distinctions are an issue by pulling clues from the text. The residents of Mango Street live in crumbling, run-down apartments and houses. They envy the beautiful, well-kept houses in nice neighborhoods of the city. And no one, not even the mayor, seems to want to help them resolve their problems.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Why is Mango Street considered to be in a "bad neighborhood"? What events, attitudes, or social conditions cause people to perceive the neighborhood as bad? Are these perceptions false?
  2. Esperanza dismisses people's fears of her neighborhood as totally unfounded. Is she right? What about her fears of going into a white neighborhood? Do those fears have any basis in reality, or are they based purely on prejudice?
  3. Why are there so many single mothers in Esperanza's neighborhood? Is this a problem that has to do with social class?

Chew on This

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

Though this novel poses categories of class difference, it's not a novel about class warfare or revolution. Esperanza's plans for social activism and reform involve helping individuals, including herself, to pull themselves out of the poorer class and enter the wealthier class.

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