The House on Mango Street
by Sandra Cisneros
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Critical, yet ambitious and hopeful
It's impossible to ignore the critical lens through which the author portrays many of the social ills in this book. Men beat their daughters and wives. An immigrant is allowed to bleed to death in the hospital because the surgeon doesn't bother to show up. The wealthy are unable or unwilling to see the poverty and crime that has taken over a poor neighborhood in their city.
As dismal as the situation may sound, the tone of the novel is encouraging – even hopeful. Our heroine, Esperanza, has upwardly-mobile plans. Faced with the injustices that occur all around her, she doesn't sink into despair – she plans to get out of there. And while she sees herself someday living in a house of her own, she vows never to "forget who [she is] or where [she] came from" (34.3). As the novella progresses, the tone becomes more hopeful as Esperanza realizes she has an active role to play in making her community better. The novella ends with Esperanza's pledge to come back someday "for the ones who cannot out" (44.8). What could be more hopeful than that?