The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
Analysis: Three Act Plot Analysis
For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.
Again, The House on Mango Street doesn't necessarily fit perfectly into this kind of plot analysis, since it's not a novel in the strictest sense of the word. This is how we'd film the movie. How would you do it?
We'd argue that Act I takes us from the beginning of the story, when Esperanza and her family move to Mango Street, to the day she starts her first job. An old man's request for a birthday kiss may seem innocent enough, but when he forces Esperanza to kiss him, he initiates her into the patterns of gendered violence that she has observed amongst her neighbors.
Esperanza continues to grow up – and we all know what that means. She starts to develop a healthy curiosity about sex, but at the same time wants to preserve her independence from men. Her desire to live independently and to escape Mango Street increases as she witnesses the way in which the women of her neighborhood are often mistreated by their husbands. This act takes us to the darkest point in the story – when Esperanza is accosted and raped by a gang of boys.
Tension mounts as we learn that, in a discouraging turn of events, Sally has gotten married. Her husband takes her away from her father, but keeps her shut up in a house and isolates her from her friends. Is this Esperanza's fate as well?
Never fear – at a wake, Esperanza's destiny is confirmed by three elderly sisters, who say that she'll manage to escape Mango Street, but that she must promise to come back to help those who cannot leave as easily. Esperanza resists this request for a while, but she comes to realize that she owes it to her community to come back and try to make things better some day.