Study Guide

The House on Mango Street Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Sandra Cisneros

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

Chapter 1
Esperanza Cordero

They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn't have to move each year. […] Our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told us before we went to bed. (1.4)

The fantasy of owning a beautiful white house is first presented as a family dream – later Esperanza internalizes her Mama and Papa's dream and makes it her own.

Chapter 14
Esperanza Cordero

Alicia, who inherited her mama's rolling pin and sleepiness, is young and smart and studies for the first time at the university. Two trains and a bus, because she doesn't want to spend her whole life in a factory or behind a rolling pin. (14.2)

The images that are used here are a great way to visually express Alicia's determination to achieve her goals. What's she running away from? A life of servitude or industrial drudgery, expressed by a rolling pin and a factory. What's she willing to do to avoid that kind of life? "Two trains and a bus" illustrate the distance she travels, just to get to school.

Chapter 29
Esperanza Cordero

When I am to sad and too skinny to keep keeping, when I am a tiny thing against so many bricks, then it is I look at trees. […] Four who reach and do not forget to reach. Four whose only reason is to be and be. (29.4)

When Esperanza personifies the trees outside her house, she thinks of them as reaching. Esperanza, who likens herself to the trees, must also be reaching for something – what is it? Does she even know, or is her only reason "to be and be"?

Chapter 34
Esperanza Cordero

Some days after dinner, guests and I will sit in front of a fire. Floorboards will squeak upstairs. The attic grumbles.

Rats? they'll ask.

Bums, I'll say, and I'll be happy. (34.4)

The second house that Esperanza envisions is a social space – a place for friends to gather and dine in, with an attic to offer to bums who have no other shelter.

One day I'll own my own house, but I won't forget who I am or where I came from. Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I'll offer them the attic, ask them to stay, because I know how it is to be without a house. (34.3)

In the future that Esperanza is fantasizing for herself, she says she won't forget who she is or where she came from – even though she will later deny that Mango Street is her home, and say that she doesn't want to come from there. Esperanza's feelings of embarrassment and shame at her origins aren't always consistent.

Mama and Papa

I am tired of looking at what we can't have. When we win the lottery…Mama begins, and then I stop listening. (34.1)

Esperanza becomes disillusioned with her parents' dreams of affording a big, beautiful house. It seems she may suspect it will never happen.

Chapter 36
Mama and Papa

I could've been somebody, you know? Esperanza, you go to school. Study hard. That Madame Butterfly was a fool. (36.3)

In the opera Madame Butterfly, the title character gives up her culture, religion, and family to marry a man who later abandons her. This statement by Esperanza's mother is a warning to her daughter not to be so foolish as to pin all her hopes for the future on a man.

Chapter 43
Esperanza Cordero

Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem. (43.2)

This third house that Esperanza dreams up is a writer's retreat – a clean, quiet space for thinking and writing.

Esperanza Cordero

Do you wish your feet would one day keep walking and take you far away from Mango Street, far away and maybe your feet would stop in front of a house, a nice one with flowers and big windows and steps for you to climb up two by two upstairs to where a room is waiting for you. […] There'd be no nosy neighbors watching, no motorcycles and cars, no sheets and towels and laundry. Only trees and more trees and plenty of blue sky.

Esperanza's dream for Sally sounds an awful lot like what Esperanza wants for herself. This is the first house that Esperanza envisions and describes, but later she'll dream up others for herself. It's as if Esperanza were letting Sally share in her secret wish.

And you could laugh, Sally. You could go to sleep and wake up and never have to think who likes and doesn't like you. You could close your eyes and you wouldn't have to worry what people said because you never belonged here anyway and nobody could make you sad and nobody would think you're strange because you like to dream and dream.

Esperanza tends to think of herself as being different – as not belonging in her environment. It's interesting that here she uses the phrase "never belonged here" to describe Sally. It's further evidence that Esperanza's house fantasy is related to her feelings of not belonging; it's an escape from the environment that she doesn't feel like she belongs to.