Study Guide

Esperanza Rising Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Pam Muñoz Ryan

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

After their Quinceañeras, they would be old enough to be courted, marry, and become las patronas, the heads of their households, rising to the positions of their mothers before them. (2.11)

Esperanza and her friends have their lives all planned out. She's going to have a big fifteenth birthday party, date a wealthy young man, and get married. Because that's just what the daughters of rich families do. It sounds like a nice enough dream, but we wonder what kind of dream it is, if it's the only future imaginable.

Yes, she thought. They could have a home in California. A beautiful home. Alfonso and Hortensia and Miguel could take care of them and they'd be rid of the uncles. And Abuelita would join them, as soon as she was well. (4.71)

Esperanza's backup plan involves keeping her servants and her luxurious lifestyle… and moving it all to California. We guess it hasn't really sunk in yet that she's not rich anymore. But don't worry. It will soon enough.

He chatted with the conductors. He got off at every stop and watched the engineers. He studied the train schedule and wanted to report it all to Esperanza. He seemed as happy as Esperanza was irritable.

"When I get to California, I am going to work for the railroad," said Miguel, looking anxiously toward the horizon. (5.69-70)

Check out the contrast here. Miguel is totally hyped up right now because he's following his dream. But Esperanza is majorly bummed because all of her plans have just been messed up. She's not following her dream. Her dream has ditched her, and she has to get a new one.

She turned away, thinking that if Isabel could learn English, then maybe someday she could learn it, too. (7.3)

Here's the thing about dreams. Sometimes, it's hard to come up with them on your own. And it's even harder to pursue them. You need someone to have gone before, to set the example, to show you that realizing a dream is not totally and completely impossible. That's part of what holds the immigrant community together, too. They follow in each other's footsteps, so that they can all move toward a better future.

"We will only be here until Abuelita is well enough to travel. Then she will come with her money and we will buy a big house. A house that Papa would have been proud for us to live in. Maybe we will buy two houses so that Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel can live in one and work for us again. And you can visit us, Isabel. You see, this is only temporary. We will not be here for long." (7.30)

Esperanza's plans don't sound very realistic. Little Isabel might believe her, but we don't. Our hunch is that she's just consoling herself with this story because she desperately misses her old way of life. And hey, can you blame her? It's hard to let old dreams go.

She wanted to tell them that her mother was sick. That she had to pay the bills. She wanted to explain to them about Abuelita and how she had to find a way to get some money to her so she could travel. Then maybe they'd understand why she needed her job. (12.8)

When Esperanza's Mama gets sick, Esperanza finally stops dreaming about her old life and starts getting real. She sets herself some very necessary goals. But they're also really, really challenging goals… especially for a thirteen-year-old girl.

The tall and feathery asparagus plants seemed to be as unrelenting as Isabel's desire to be queen. The workers picked the spears from the fields and a few days later, the same fields had to be picked again because new shoots were already showing their heads. And Isabel talked of nothing else, except the possibility of wearing the winner's crown of flowers on her head. (13.15)

Yep, Isabel's stubborn hope is a lot like the persistent growth of the asparagus plants, with their feathery tops. The trouble is, eventually the asparagus plants will stop growing and so will Isabel's belief that she might be crowned queen.

"See these perfect rows, Miguel? They are like what my life would have been. These rows know where they are going. Straight ahead. Now my life is like the zigzag in the blanket on Mama's bed." (13.56)

Esperanza's life isn't like the straight rows of the vineyard anymore. That was the old Esperanza. And while that's more than a little difficult and challenging, we can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, Esperanza will find it really rewarding to find her own way in life. She may not know where she's going, but isn't that half the fun?

She soared with the anticipation of dreams she never knew she could have, of learning English, of supporting her family, of someday buying a tiny house. (14.102)

Even though these goals are much more modest than Esperanza's initial plans to marry a rich neighbor and be the mistress of a big old house, they seem more satisfying somehow, don't they? Maybe that's because Esperanza is going to have to work for these accomplishments, instead of having them handed to her on a silver platter.