Study Guide

Esperanza Rising Perseverance

By Pam Muñoz Ryan


Abuelita smiled, reached over, and pulled the yarn, unravelling all of Esperanza's rows. "Do not be afraid to start over," she said. (2.38)

We're pretty sure Abuelita isn't just talking about crocheting here. Spoiler alert: this lesson will come in handy in a few chapters. Keep your eye out. Oh, and P.S. how wise is Abuelita?

"In California there is only fieldwork," said Miguel.

"I am stronger than you think," said Mama. (4.65)

In order to protect her family and her servants from Tío Luis, Mama is willing to give up her life of luxury and do physical labor for a living. She's one tough cookie, that's for sure.

"When I was your age, I left Spain with my mother, father, and sisters. [...] We had to take several ships and the journey lasted months. When we arrived, nothing was as promised. There were many hard times. But life was also exciting. And we had each other." (4.68)

You might have heard a version of this story before: "When I was a kid, we had to walk uphill both ways!" But Esperanza's grandma's story is a bit more extreme. Her immigration experience was challenging and difficult, but with the help of her family, she made it through.

"We are like the phoenix," said Abuelita. "Rising again, with a new life ahead of us." (4.70)

The phoenix is a mythical bird that dies in a burst of flames and then is reborn from its own ashes. (Cool, right? Check out our discussion of this in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" for more.) Here, Abuelita uses it as a symbol of the family that builds a new life after their old one is destroyed—that's perseverance at its best.

"Look at the zigzag of the blanket. Mountains and valleys. Right now you are in the bottom of the valley and your problems loom big around you. But soon, you will be at the top of the mountain again. After you have lived many mountains and valleys, we will be together." (4.76)

Oh, Abuelita, you're so wise. Here she tosses us yet another metaphor for the difficult journey that Esperanza is about to begin. Notice how it always comes back to the family being together.

"It is the same for everyone," said Josefina. "When you first start in the sheds, the body refuses to bend, but in time, you will get used to the work." (8.3)

Farm labor is no cake walk; this is some seriously difficult work. The women's bodies are achy and sore when they get home, but they get up the next day and do it all over again.

Esperanza felt like she had failed Mama in some way and wanted to make it up to her. Mama had been strong for her. Now it was her turn to be strong for Mama. She must show her that she didn't need to worry anymore. (10.24)

Up until this point, Mama has been the strong, determined one. Now Esperanza feels it's her turn to take on the responsibility of leading the family. This is a major turning point for our girl—dare we say it's the climax of the story?

Josefina had told Esperanza that if she was a good worker, the bosses would not concern themselves with her age, so she knew she had to work hard. (10.49)

Remember, Esperanza is only thirteen years old. Thirteen! And her age is yet another obstacle that she has to overcome.

Esperanza thought of Mama in the hospital and Abuelita in Mexico and how much depended on her being able to work. If she was lucky enough to have a job in the spring, no one was going to get in her way. (10.66)

Esperanza's determination to work and accomplish her goal of bringing Abuelita to the United States is fierce. As a result, she's not willing to join the protesters. Do you think she's making the right decision?

"There is more than one way to get what you want in this country. Maybe I must be more determined than others to succeed, but I know that it will happen. Aguántate tantito y la fruta caerá en tu mano." (13.50)

Hey, isn't that what Papa used to say? "Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand." In other words, be patient. Well, it turns out this philosophy also applies to Miguel's current situation. Sure, he'll have to work hard, and he'll encounter some prejudice, but eventually, if he is patient, he will succeed.