The House on Mango Street
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
It could be said that this is the story of a house. A house on Mango Street. Pretty straightforward, right? But right off the bat the title has us asking ourselves a few questions. Whose house is it? What's special about the house? Where's Mango Street?
Let's dig a little deeper. In literature, a house is rarely just a house – that's because the idea of a "house" carries certain connotations, or ideas that are connected with the word itself. When we think of a house, our mind makes all sorts of associations. We think of things like a home, a family, and a sense of belonging. We think of location, location, location – and we generally think of a cute little two-bedroom in the suburbs. You know, like something you'd see on Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch. We also think of status, because it usually takes quite a bit of money to purchase a house, and being a homeowner suggests a certain amount of prestige.
Well, in a twisted way, The House on Mango Street is about all of these things. It is about a home, a family, and a girl who wants to feel like she belongs to community. But to a large extent the story defies the expectations we've formulated based on the title – Mango Street isn't in suburbia, for instance. It's not even in a nice part of the city. Nor is the house on Mango Street the kind of cute, tidy house that you see in television sitcoms. It's cramped and falling apart and doesn't even have a backyard to play in.
As it turns out, the ways in which the story deviates from the picture-perfect image that the title brings to mind are more significant that the ways in which it conforms to our expectations. Because, just as our vision of suburban cuteness is crushed, so is Esperanza's. And ultimately, this isn't the story of a house – it's the story of a girl, her disappointment, and where it leads her.