Study Guide

Esperanza Rising Principles

By Pam Muñoz Ryan


"Aguántate tantito y la fruta caerá en tu mano," he said. "Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand. You must be patient, Esperanza." (1.10)

We're telling you—the adults in this story are so wise. It's as if they're straight out of a, well, novel. One of the first lessons that Esperanza's father teaches her is about patience. This is a lesson that will come in handy as Esperanza struggles to make a new life in the United States.

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

As we were saying about wise adults… here are some more words to live by. Abuelita's advice about crocheting is—wait for it—also applicable to life. We know that Esperanza is soaking it all in, too, because she will eventually repeat the same words to Isabel.

"Mija, it is all we can afford," said Mama. "We must make do. It is not easy for me either. But remember, we are going to a place that will be better than living with Tío Luis, and at least we will be together." (5.43)

Esperanza is pretty cranky about having to ride in the crowded, smelly car with people she regards as beneath her. But as always, Mama gives her a reality check.

Mama looked across at the girl's mother. "I am sorry for my daughter's bad manners."

Esperanza is totally confused that her mom is apologizing to a peasant. But by apologizing, Mama is showing Esperanza that social class doesn't indicate anything about a person's character. She's also showing her that it's not cool to be a spoiled brat.

"Mama, she is poor and dirty..." said Esperanza.

But Mama interrupted. "When you scorn these people, you scorn Miguel, Hortensia, and Alfonso. And you embarrass me and yourself. As difficult as it is to accept, our lives are different now." (5.55-56)

Oh, snap. Mama's scolding really upsets Esperanza—probably because she knows Mama is right.

Carmen smiled. "I am poor, but I am rich. I have my children, I have a garden with roses, and I have my faith and the memories of those who have gone before me. What more is there?"

Hortensia and Mama smiled, nodding their heads. And after a few thoughtful moments, Mama was blotting away stray tears. (5.83-84)

Carmen's philosophy, that family and the memories of loved ones are more important than money, is very similar to Mama's. In fact, it's the reason she and Esperanza are on this journey in the first place, right? How long does it take Esperanza to come to the same conclusion?

Had all of Mama's rules changed since they had boarded the train? (5.89)

Mama's "rules" about proper behavior seem to have changed since they boarded the train to the United States. What is different now that they're on their way toward the U.S.? Have Mama's principles changed?

"Here, we have two choices. To be together and miserable or to be together and happy. Mija, we have each other and Abuelita will come. How would she want you to behave? I choose to be happy. So which will you choose?" (7.23)

Mama is quite the optimist. She's just lost her husband, her house, and all her money, but she still sees the glass as half full. After all, she and Esperanza are still together.

"Do you know how lucky we are, Esperanza? Many people come to this valley and wait months for a job. [...] Please be grateful for the favors bestowed upon us." (7.25)

Mama tries to teach Esperanza to be an optimist, too. Esperanza has been focusing on all the things she has lost, but Mama reminds her to be grateful for the things they still have.

Esperanza's first thought was to pull her hand away and wash it as soon as possible. Then she remembered Mama's kindness to the peasant girl on the train—and her disappointment in Esperanza. She didn't want Silvia to start crying if she were to pull away. She looked around at the dusty camp and thought that it must be hard to stay clean in such a place. (7.65)

Esperanza takes her Mama's lessons to heart. That's a pretty impressive turnaround for a thirteen-year-old girl, don't you think?