Women occupy a central role in The House on Mango Street. Almost all of the major characters are women, and the protagonist's understanding of her own femininity motivates much of the story. Esperanza perceives beauty to be a major source of feminine power, and she admires and envies beauty in her female relatives and friends. But she also notices that beauty is not an infallible weapon, and that it can backfire – the beautiful women in the novel are often the ones who suffer the most at the hands of men. In her struggle to define her own femininity in a society that is often oppressive to women, Esperanza seeks new forms of feminine power – ones that will allow her to maintain her independence.
Esperanza ultimately rejects beauty as a source of power because she sees it as a double-edged sword that can both control men and trap women under men's control.
By the end of the novel, Esperanza is poised to become what is, in her society, a kind of New Woman – soon to attain a level of independence that was unheard of for women in earlier generations, and possessing the confidence, education, and means to exist in the world without relating to men in a hierarchical way.