Study Guide

The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street Summary

Esperanza is a little girl who moves with her family to a house on Mango Street. It's a small, crumbling red house in a poor urban neighborhood – not at all what Esperanza had been hoping for when her parents promised to move the family to a house.

Esperanza, who's often followed by her younger sister Nenny, meets the other residents of Mango Street and describes their often difficult lives in a series of vignettes, or short sketches. Most of the neighborhood's residents are Hispanic, including Esperanza, whose father is a Mexican immigrant and whose mother is Latina. (By the way, check out Sandra Cisneros's opinion on the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" under "Trivia.") The beginning of this book introduces us to a collection of characters and explores their cultural backgrounds and how they are affected by poverty, exile, and the restrictions of prescribed gender roles.

Esperanza is ashamed of her family's poverty, and describes several instances in which she lies, or tries to hide the fact that she is poor, by saying she lives in a different house, or hiding her unattractive shoes under the table at a party. Puberty also provokes some feelings of shame for Esperanza, whose experience of adolescence is made even more painful than usual by two instances of sexual aggression – one in which an old man at work forces her to kiss him, and one in which some boys at a carnival rape her. Some of Esperanza's friends also suffer significant hardship: Alicia, whose mother is dead, is forced by her father to rise early every morning to make tortillas for her family; Sally, a beautiful girl at school, endures regular beatings by her father; Minerva, a teenaged mother of two, is constantly being abandoned or beaten by her husband.

Esperanza's mother encourages her not to let men hold her back, and not to "lay her [her neck] on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain" of marriage (35.3). Witnessing the fate of her female schoolmates who marry young to escape the abuse of their fathers, only to suffer at the hands of their new husbands, Esperanza resolves to leave Mango Street with her books and her papers. She dreams of having a house all her own, where she can write. An encounter with three spiritual sisters at a neighborhood wake suggests that she will be successful in escaping the neighborhood, but that she will never be able to deny her past. The three sisters convince Esperanza that, when she leaves, she must come back for those who cannot leave as easily, and work to make Mango Street a better place.

  • Chapter 1

    The House on Mango Street

    • The narrator starts by telling us that she and her family didn't always live on Mango Street – they've moved around a lot.
    • The family's new house on Mango Street is all theirs – previously they'd been renting apartments.
    • The narrator says her family had to leave their last apartment in a hurry because the water pipe broke and the landlord wouldn't fix it.
    • Mama and Papa had always promised their children that someday they'd live in a real house with working appliances and a fancy staircase.
    • The house on Mango Street is a disappointment – it's not big and fancy at all, and all six family members have to share a bedroom.
    • The narrator tells the story of the moment she realized she had to have a real house: one day, while she is playing in front of the apartment on Loomis, a nun from her school passes and asks where she lives. She points to the third floor of the worn, paint-peeled building, and the nun says: "You live there?" The narrator decides she needs to have a real house that she can point to without feeling ashamed.
    • The house on Mango Street is not that house.
    • The narrator's Mama and Papa say the house on Mango Street is temporary, but the narrator is dubious – she "[knows] how those things go" (1.11).
  • Chapter 2

    Hairs

    • Everyone in the narrator's family has different hair – she describes Papa's, her own, Carlos', Nenny's, and Kiki's.
    • But the narrator likes her mother's hair the best – it's all done up in pincurls and smells like warm bread. The smell of her mother's hair makes the narrator feel safe.
  • Chapter 3

    Boys & Girls

    • The boys and girls in the narrator's family can't be seen talking to each other outside of the house – you know, because of the whole cooties thing. They "live in separate worlds" (3.1).
    • So the narrator is stuck with her little sister Nenny, who's too young to be her friend.
    • Someday, the narrator says, she'll have a best friend who will be cool and fun and understand her jokes.
    • Until then, she feels like "a balloon tied to an anchor" (3.4).
  • Chapter 4

    My Name

    • The narrator tells us her name is the Spanish word for "hope," and tells us it reminds her of a lot of sad things, including the Mexican records her dad plays that sound like sobbing.
    • The narrator is named after her great-grandmother, a "wild horse of a woman" who refused to get married until the narrator's grandfather carried her off by force (4.3).
    • The story goes that great-grandma never forgave her captor, and spent her whole life looking out the window longingly.
    • Great-grandma's name was Esperanza, and it's our narrator's name, too.
    • Esperanza thinks her name sounds harsh when her English-speaking schoolmates say it, but that is sounds softer in Spanish.
    • Her sister's name, Magdalena, is even worse, in her opinion. But at least Magdalena gets a nickname – Nenny – while Esperanza always has to be Esperanza.
    • Esperanza wants to give herself a new name that would feel more like the real her. Something like Zeze the X.
  • Chapter 5

    Cathy Queen of Cats

    • By way of introducing herself, Cathy claims to be the great great grand cousin of the queen of France. She tells Esperanza who's who in the neighborhood.
    • Cathy has a lot of cats.
    • Cathy promises to be Esperanza's friend until next Tuesday, when she says her family's moving out because "the neighborhood is getting bad" (5.3). She doesn't seem to realize that this is insulting to Esperanza and her family, who have just moved in.
  • Chapter 6

    Our Good Day

    • Two girls approach Esperanza and try to convince her to chip in five dollars for a bicycle. Cathy tells Esperanza not to talk to them because they "smell like a broom," but Esperanza likes them (6.6). Cathy is clearly a snob.
    • Esperanza runs inside and gets five dollars from her and her sister's savings, even though she knows it will mean the end of her brief friendship with Cathy.
    • The two girls introduce themselves as Lucy and Rachel, from Texas.
    • Rachel decides that the girls will take turns owning the bicycle, but today everyone wants to ride it together, since it's new.
    • Lucy pedals, Esperanza sits behind her, and Rachel sits on the handlebars. The girls ride down the street and around the block, laughing.
  • Chapter 7

    Laughter

    • Even though Nenny and Esperanza don't look like sisters the way Rachel and Lucy do, the narrator says that they have a lot in common. Like the way they laugh.
    • The narrator gives an example of this – one day the four girls pass a house that reminds Esperanza of Mexico, and she says so. Rachel and Lucy don't get it, but Nenny is totally on the same wavelength, and says, "That's what I was thinking exactly" (7.4).
  • Chapter 8

    Gil's Furniture Bought and Sold

    • The narrator describes a junk store in the neighborhood, where her family once bought a used refrigerator and Carlos sold a box of magazines.
    • The store is dark and crowded with junk that Nenny and Esperanza go to look at.
    • The owner is an old, black man. Nenny asks him lots of questions, but Esperanza never talks much.
    • One day Nenny asks the owner about a music box – Esperanza thinks it's going to be a pretty music box with a ballerina inside, but it's just an ordinary looking wooden box with a brass record in it.
    • The old man starts up the music box, and it makes a beautiful sound.
    • Even though Esperanza is impressed, she turns away and pretends she doesn't care about the box because she doesn't want to look stupid in front of her sister.
    • Nenny asks the old man how much the music box costs, but he tells her it's not for sale.
  • Chapter 9

    Meme Ortiz

    • Meme Ortiz and his family move into Cathy's old house when she moves away.
    • Meme's real name is Juan. He has a sheepdog who also has two names – one in English, and one in Spanish.
    • The house Meme moves into was built by Cathy's father. The floors slant, and the wooden steps are lopsided.
    • In the backyard is a huge tree. From its branches you can see the whole neighborhood.
    • The neighborhood kids hold the First Annual Tarzan Jumping Contest from the tree. Meme wins, but breaks both his arms in the process.
  • Chapter 10

    Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin

    • Meme's family rents out their basement to a Puerto Rican family. Louie is the oldest child.
    • Louie has an older cousin named Marin who lives with the family. She wears a lot of makeup and black nylons. She's in charge of babysitting for Louie's little sisters, which means she's stuck in the house.
    • One day Louie's other cousin drives up to Louie's house in a big, shiny, yellow Cadillac. Everybody comes out of the house to ask questions – where'd he get the new car? Can they have a ride?
    • Louie's cousin tells everyone to pile into the back, and drives them around the block six times. The seventh time around, they hear police sirens.
    • Louie's cousin orders everyone out of the Cadillac. He takes off speeding down the alley, with a police car in pursuit.
    • Louie's cousin crashes into a lamppost, and the police cuff him and haul him off to jail. The narrator says that she and Louie's family all "[wave] as they [drive] away" (10.8).
  • Chapter 11

    Marin

    • Meet Marin. (OK, I know we met Marin in the last chapter, but the narrator wasn't quite sure of her name yet.)
    • The first thing we learn about Marin is that she has a boyfriend in Puerto Rico. He's unemployed, but she's saving the money she makes selling Avon products and baby-sitting to go back to Puerto Rico and marry him.
    • On the other hand, Marin also talks about wanting to get a job downtown so she can wear pretty clothes and maybe meet someone on the subway who will marry her and take her to live in a nice house.
    • Louie's parents are probably going to send Marin back to Puerto Rico because they think she's too much trouble.
    • Esperanza likes Marin and doesn't want her to go. Marin is her source of info on things like boys, sex, and how to look pretty.
    • At night, Marin is allowed out of the house, but only as far as the front yard. The kids sit with her as she listens to the radio, smokes a cigarette, and waits for the boys to pass by and look at her.
  • Chapter 12

    Those Who Don't

    • The narrator makes fun of people who think she and her neighbors are dangerous.
    • She says that she and her friends aren't afraid of the tough-looking guys in the neighborhood – she knows them all by name.
    • The narrator feels safe in her neighborhood, in which everyone is "brown." But when she and her neighbors venture into another neighborhood of a different color, they get scared too.
  • Chapter 13

    There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn't Know What to Do

    • Rosa Vargas is a single mother with a whole lot of kids. They're completely uncontrollable.
    • The kids are "without respect for all things living, including themselves" (13.3).
    • The neighbors try to watch out for the kids, but grow tired of worrying about them and give up.
    • No one pays attention with Efren chips his tooth, Refugia gets her head stuck in the gate, or Angel Vargas falls from Mr. Benny's roof.
  • Chapter 14

    Alicia Who Sees Mice

    • Alicia's dad tells her that the mice that infest their dilapidated home don't exist. He tells her she needs to sleep so she can wake up early in the morning and make tortillas for the family, the way her mother did when she was alive.
    • Alicia goes to college so she can escape life in a factory or "behind a rolling pin" (14.2).
    • The only things the narrator's friend Alicia fears are "four-legged fur" and fathers (14.2).
  • Chapter 15

    Darius & the Clouds

    • Where the narrator lives, beautiful things like sky, butterflies, and flowers are in short supply.
    • Darius, a kid who doesn't like school and mostly spends his time trying to act tough, actually said something wise today.
    • He points at a fat, fluffy cloud in the sky and says: "That's God" (15.3).
  • Chapter 16

    And Some More

    • The girls talk about the many names for snow, people, and clouds.
    • Their discussion turns into a childish argument – your mama this and your mama that. You're stupid. No you're stupid. We're sure you remember how that goes.
  • Chapter 17

    The Family of Little Feet

    • The mother of the little foot family gives Lucy, Rachel, and Esperanza a paper bag with three pairs of high-heeled shoes.
    • The girls have fun playing dress up and trading the three pairs of shoes amongst themselves. Esperanza says it's "scary" to see her own long, girlish leg with a foot that no longer looks like her own (17.7).
    • Lucy has the idea to take their little-girl's socks off. The girls admire their long, skinny legs.
    • The three girls walk down to the corner, where they get some attention from the neighborhood men.
    • Mr. Benny, who owns the corner grocery, tells the girls to take off the shoes, because they're dangerous. The girls run away.
    • A boy on a bike confuses the girls by hollering at them.
    • A bum tells Rachel she's pretty and offers her a dollar if she will kiss him. Lucy grabs Rachel's hand and the girls run away.
    • The girls run up Mango Street the back way, and hide the shoes under a basket on the back porch. They're "tired of being beautiful" (17.29).
    • One Tuesday Lucy's mother throws the shoes away. The girls don't complain.
  • Chapter 18

    A Rice Sandwich

    • Esperanza is jealous of the kids who get to stay at school to eat lunch in the canteen. She tries to convince her mother to let her stay instead of coming home for lunch.
    • Nenny prefers to walk home for lunch with her best friend Gloria. Carlos and Kiki are patrol boys, and don't want to stay at school for lunch, either.
    • Esperanza's mother relents and writes a note giving her permission to stay at school for lunch.
    • The nun monitoring the canteen sends Esperanza to see the Sister Superior.
    • Sister Superior says she knows Esperanza doesn't live far away – in fact, she bets she can see Esperanza's house from the school. She drags her to the window and points to a raggedy-looking row of decrepit apartments.
    • Esperanza lies and says that she lives in one of those ugly apartments, and starts to cry.
    • Sister Superior feels sorry for Esperanza and lets her stay for the day.
    • In the canteen, the other boys and girls watch as Esperanza cries over her rice sandwich.
  • Chapter 19

    Chanclas

    • Esperanza's mom comes home with a new party dress, socks, and slip for Esperanza. They're going to a baptism party for Esperanza's little cousin.
    • Esperanza's mom forgot to buy party shoes, so Esperanza has to wear her old brown saddle shoes.
    • A boy who is Esperanza's cousin by first communion asks her to dance. But she's too ashamed of her clunky shoes, and sits with her feet tucked under her chair.
    • Uncle Nacho forces Esperanza to get up and dance – as they twirl around the dance floor, Esperanza forgets about her ugly shoes. Everyone admires their fancy moves, and Esperanza is highly aware of her first-communion cousin watching her.
  • Chapter 20

    Hips

    • The four girls debate the various uses and merits of hips.
    • The girls jump rope and "practice shaking it" so they'll know what to do with hips when they get them (20.15).
    • Rachel, Lucy and Esperanza make up songs about hips, but Nenny seems not to have caught on to their new game. The narrator says Nenny "is in a world we don't belong to anymore" (20.34).
  • Chapter 21

    The First Job

    • Esperanza has been planning to get a job to help pay her tuition at Catholic high school, but she's caught off guard the day Aunt Lala comes over and tells her to show up for work at the Peter Pan Photo Finishers.
    • Esperanza puts on a dress that makes her look older, borrows money for bus fare, and shows up at the photo lab. She lies about her age to the boss, and starts the same day.
    • Esperanza finds the job easy, but she is nervous around the other employees.
    • Another employee, an "older Oriental man," offers to be Esperanza's friend and tells her she can sit with him at lunch next time (21.7). He has nice eyes, and Esperanza feels less nervous.
    • The older man tells Esperanza it's his birthday, and asks her for a birthday kiss. As she leans in to give him a kiss on the cheek, he grabs her face with both hands and kisses her hard on the mouth.
  • Chapter 22

    Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark

    • Esperanza's Papa sits on her bed and tells her that her grandfather is dead. He cries – Esperanza has never seen her dad cry before.
    • Esperanza knows that Papa will have to fly to Mexico, and imagines what the traditionally Mexican funeral will be like.
    • It's Esperanza's responsibility to tell her younger brothers and sister the news, because she's the oldest.
    • This is different from the family's usual routine – usually Papa wakes up before dawn and leaves the house before his children are awake. Today Esperanza holds her Papa in her arms and comforts him.
  • Chapter 23

    Born Bad

    • Esperanza is in big trouble for something she did to Aunt Lupe. Her misbehavior requires religious intervention.
    • Aunt Lupe, her mom's sister, used to be a beautiful swimmer. But she's been sick and bed-ridden as long as Esperanza has known her.
    • Esperanza speculates that disease strikes at random – there's no good reason why someone healthy and beautiful should get sick. Her aunt was just unlucky.
    • After many years of being ill, her aunt's disease seems normal to Esperanza.
    • Esperanza and her friends play a game that's kind of like Charades – one of them pretends to be a recognizable person, and the others guess. Usually they pick famous people, but today they pick Aunt Lupe.
    • Esperanza likes Aunt Lupe. When she visits her aunt, she reads her stories and recites her own poetry. Aunt Lupe encourages Esperanza to keep writing, because writing will "keep [her] free" (23.15).
    • The day Esperanza and her friends imitate Aunt Lupe, Esperanza says they "didn't know she was going to die" (23.16). It seems Aunt Lupe's death happens pretty soon after the girls play the game.
    • Aunt Lupe dies, and the girls begin to dream strange dreams.
  • Chapter 24

    Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water

    • Esperanza is in the kitchen of Elenita, "witch woman" (24.1). Elenita's house is full of little kids, holy candles, and voodoo posters.
    • Elenita has Esperanza pour a glass of water and asks if she sees anyone's face in the glass – Esperanza sees nothing but bubbles.
    • Elenita begins to tell Esperanza's fortune with a stack of strange cards with pictures on them. She also examines Esperanza's palm.
    • Esperanza asks Elenita what she really wants to know – does the fortune teller see anything about a house? Elenita says that she sees "a home in the heart" (24.17).
    • Esperanza is disappointed. She doesn't understand what "a home in the heart" means.
    • She pays Elenita five dollars and goes home.
  • Chapter 25

    Geraldo No Last Name

    • Marin meets a young, good-looking man named Geraldo at one of the dances she goes to frequently. She's the last person to see him alive.
    • Geraldo dies in a hit-and-run, and he doesn't have any I.D. on him.
    • Marin tells the people at the hospital and the police what she knows – that his name is Geraldo, and he worked in a restaurant. She spends hours in the emergency room trying to help, even though she barely knows the guy.
    • Marin seems to be the only person to care about Geraldo's death. The surgeon doesn't even bother to come to the emergency room to save his life.
    • No one knows about the tiny kitchenettes where Geraldo worked so he could send money home to his family. His family, the narrator speculates, will wonder what happened to him.
  • Chapter 26

    Edna's Ruthie

    • Meet Ruthie. She's quirky, wears weird clothes, laughs by herself, and likes to play, even though she's a grown-up.
    • Ruthie is Edna's daughter. Edna is the cranky landlady of the apartment complex next door to Esperanza's house.
    • Ruthie seems to have a fear of enclosed spaces – she doesn't like to go into stores with the kids, and if she does, she "keeps looking around her like a wild animal in a house for the first time" (26.4).
    • Ruthie often blurts out non sequitur statements. In the middle of one of Esperanza's jokes, for example, she might comment on the moon or some clouds.
    • One day some of Edna's friends ask Ruthie to go play bingo. Ruthie stands on the front steps, paralyzed by indecision. Eventually the car leaves without her.
    • When Ruthie was young, she had lots of job offers, but she got married instead and moved to the suburbs. Esperanza can't understand why Ruthie is living on Mango Street in her mother's living room when she has a husband and a real house of her own. Ruthie always says she's just visiting, and that next weekend her husband is going to come and take her home. He never does.
    • Ruthie tells Esperanza that she used to write children's books.
    • Esperanza memorizes the poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and recites it for Ruthie. When she finishes, Ruthie says: "You have the most beautiful teeth I have ever seen," and goes inside.
  • Chapter 27

    The Earl of Tennessee

    • Earl lives next door to Esperanza in Edna's basement apartment. The neighborhood kids like to sit on the steps outside his apartment.
    • Earl keeps his blinds down during the day and works nights. The only time the kids see him is when he comes and goes to work, or when he comes outside to tell them to be quiet.
    • Earl is a jukebox repairman from the South.
    • Rumor has is that Earl is married and has a wife somewhere. Edna, Esperanza's mother, and the neighborhood kids all claim to have seen her, but they disagree as to what she looks like. Sounds to us like he's bringing home more than one woman…
    • The kids do agree that whenever he brings a woman to his apartment, they walk quickly inside, lock the door, and never stay long.
  • Chapter 28

    Sire

    • A boy named Sire stares at Esperanza every time she passes his house. He makes Esperanza feel all funny inside.
    • Papa calls Sire a punk, and Mama says not to talk to him.
    • Sire has a girlfriend named Lois. Esperanza admires her tiny, painted toenails and feminine hands and makeup. But she notices that Lois doesn't know how to tie her shoes.
    • Esperanza watches Sire and Lois together and wonders about what they do together. Mama says "those kinds of girls […] are the ones that go into alleys" (28.3).
    • Esperanza feels like "everything is waiting to explode like Christmas" (28.4). She wants to sit out with boys and know what it's like to be held and kissed.
  • Chapter 29

    Four Skinny Trees

    • Four skinny trees stand outside Esperanza and Nenny's bedroom. Esperanza says that they are the only things that understand her, and she is the only one that understands them. Nenny definitely doesn't understand while Esperanza communes with the trees from the window, Nenny just sleeps.
    • The trees are kind of like Esperanza – they're skinny with pointy elbows. They don't belong here, but they're here. They have a secret strength.
    • There are four trees, and when one sags, they all droop with their arms around one another. Does this sound like anyone we know? What about Esperanza and her three close friends?
    • The trees teach, Esperanza says. They say: "Keep, keep, keep" (29.3).
    • Whenever Esperanza feels discouraged, she looks at the four trees, "who grew despite concrete" (29.4).
  • Chapter 30

    No Speak English

    • The man across the street from Esperanza's house works day and night to save the money to bring his wife and child to the United States.
    • One day Mamacita and the baby boy arrive in a taxi. She's huge and beautiful, dressed all in pink.
    • Mamacita never comes down from the third floor apartment. Esperanza thinks it's because she doesn't speak much English.
    • Mamacita only knows three phrases in English: "He not here," "No speak English," and "Holy smokes."
    • When Esperanza's father first came to the United States, he ate "hamandeggs" for three moths, because it was the only thing he knew how to say (30.7).
    • Mamacita stays at home all day, listening to Spanish radio and singing songs about her country. She's homesick for her pink house.
    • Sometimes her husband grows impatient with Mamacita, and yells at her to speak English, because the United States is her home now.
    • The baby boy begins to learn English from the commercials he sees on T.V. Mamacita tells him, over and over again, "No speak English" (30.17).
  • Chapter 31

    Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays

    • Rafaela's husband locks his wife indoors when he goes out. He's afraid she'll run away, because she's so beautiful.
    • On Tuesdays, Rafaela's husband stays out late, and Rafaela leans out the window to listen to the music coming from the neighborhood bar.
    • Rafaela asks Esperanza and her friends to go to the store to buy her some coconut or papaya juice. She throws them a dollar from the balcony, and they go get it for her.
  • Chapter 32

    Sally

    • Sally is a beautiful girl who goes to Esperanza's school. Her father is very strictly religious, and won't let Sally go out.
    • Sally wears makeup and sophisticated black clothes. Esperanza wants to be like her.
    • Sally used to be best friends with Cheryl, until the day Cheryl called her a name and the girls got in a fight.
    • The boys tell stories about Sally in the coatroom, but Esperanza doesn't believe them.
    • Sally always goes straight home after school, pulling off her makeup and pulling down her skirt.
    • Esperanza wonders if Sally sometimes wishes she didn't have to go home, but could go instead to a room all her own, where she could be herself and not have to worry about what people think of her.
  • Chapter 33

    Minerva Writes Poems

    • Minerva is only a little bit older than Esperanza, but she has two kids. She raises them by herself, because her husband keeps leaving her.
    • Minerva writes poetry on little slips of paper. She and Esperanza read each other's poems.
    • One day Minerva kicks her husband out of the house with all of his stuff. But then she lets him back in.
    • The next week Minerva comes over to Esperanza's house covered in bruises, asking Esperanza what she should do.
    • Esperanza says there's nothing she can do – Minerva is going to have to decide for herself.
  • Chapter 34

    Bums in the Attic

    • On Sundays, Esperanza's family drives out to the neighborhood where Esperanza's Papa works to look at the beautiful houses and dream of what it would be like to be rich. Esperanza stops going with her family, because she's ashamed to be staring out the window at things she can't have.
    • Esperanza thinks the people who live on the hill live so close to the stars they've forgotten what it's like to live close to the earth, like she does. She vows that when she's rich, she won't forget where she came from. When passing bums ask for a place to stay, she will offer them her attic.
  • Chapter 35

    Beautiful & Cruel

    • Esperanza isn't like the other girls in her neighborhood, including her sister. Boys don't pay attention to her. She feels ugly, untamed, and unattractive to men.
    • In the movies, Esperanza says, there's always a beautiful woman who attracts all the men with her red lips. She never gives in to any of their amorous advances, though – her sex appeal gives her power, and she's not giving it away.
    • Esperanza says that she's "begun [her] own quiet war" (35.5). Her strategy involves acting with the carefree, uninhibited attitude of a man.
  • Chapter 36

    A Smart Cookie

    • Esperanza's mom has all sorts of skills: opera-singing skills, cooking skills, language skills. But there's a lot that she never learned how to do, or never got to experience.
    • Today Esperanza's mama is singing along to Madame Butterfly while she cooks oatmeal. In the opera, Madame Butterfly kills herself when she's abandoned by her husband. Esperanza's mom says, "That Madame Butterfly was a fool" (36.3).
    • Esperanza's mom confesses that she quit school when she was young because she didn't have nice clothes. She berates herself for having let shame in her appearance stop her from getting an education.
  • Chapter 37

    What Sally Said

    • Sally comes to school covered in bruises a lot, offering the excuse that she fell. But no one believes her.
    • Sally confesses to Esperanza that her father beats her. She tries to make it seem like no big deal, claiming he never hits her hard.
    • Sally doesn't tell anyone about the times when her father beats her badly, or hits her like she's an animal, just because she's a girl. He thinks that, because she's female, she's going to shame the family by running away with a man.
    • Sally comes to stay with Esperanza's family one day, to get away from her dad. But that night her father comes to the door with tears in his eyes and begs Sally to come home. She goes with him.
    • Everything's OK for a little while, until Sally's dad catches her talking to a boy. Then he beats her so badly she can't come to school for a while.
  • Chapter 38

    The Monkey Garden

    • Esperanza's neighbors move to Kentucky, and take their pet monkey with them. They had had a garden, and now that they're gone, the neighborhood kids take it over.
    • Little by little, the garden becomes an overgrown graveyard for old, broken-down cars.
    • The children play in the garden, and begin to think of it as a magical place where they can escape the prying eyes of adults. They pretend that the garden existed before anything else, and that things can get lost in the garden for a thousand years.
    • This is where Esperanza tells us that she tried to die in the garden once, and that it would be the last day she would go there. That line serves as an introduction to the story she's about to tell us. Here goes:
    • Esperanza and Sally go to the garden. Esperanza wants to run and play, even though someone accuses her of being too old to play games. Sally stays behind and talks to Tito and his friends.
    • Esperanza observes as Sally flirts with the boys, pretending to be angry when they steal her keys and force her to kiss them in order to get them back.
    • Sally goes behind the old blue pickup with the boys to get her keys back. Esperanza feels really angry about the situation, and runs up three flights of stairs to tell Tito's mom about what's going on.
    • Tito's mom doesn't see what the big deal is. After all, boys (and girls) will be boys (and girls).
    • Esperanza runs back to the garden and prepares to rescue Sally. She takes a few sticks and a brick and bursts in on the scene.
    • Everyone looks at Esperanza like she's crazy, and Sally tells her to go home.
    • Esperanza runs away and hides under a tree at the other end of the garden. She lies down and cries, and tries to wish herself to death.
    • When she finally stands up, the garden doesn't seem to belong to her anymore.
  • Chapter 39

    Red Clowns

    • Esperanza begins this chapter by accusing Sally of having lied to her about sex. Sex didn't turn out to be anything like the way Sally told it, or like it is in the movies.
    • Esperanza was waiting for Sally by the tilt-a-whirl at the carnival, but Sally never showed up. She had gone somewhere with a "big boy," and never came back.
    • A group of boys starts to bother Esperanza. One grabs her by the arm, says, "I love you, Spanish girl," and kisses her (39.3).
    • Some more stuff happens, but Esperanza doesn't want to remember it. We suspect that one of the boys in the group rapes her.
    • Again, Esperanza accuses Sally, and all the books and magazines that talk about sex, of having lied to her. Her experience with sex involved dirty fingernails against her skin and a stranger's sour smell.
  • Chapter 40

    Linoleum Roses

    • Sally's not even in eighth grade yet when she gets married to a marshmallow salesman.
    • Esperanza thinks Sally got married to escape. (Remember Sally's scary father? It's understandable that she'd want to get away from him.)
    • Sally lives in a house now, and claims to be happy. But sometimes her husband gets angry and violent.
    • Sally's husband won't let Sally talk on the phone, look out the window, or receive visits from her friends.
    • Sally stays at home, because she's afraid to leave the house without her husband's permission.
  • Chapter 41

    The Three Sisters

    • Lucy and Rachel's baby sister dies, and the family holds a wake in their house.
    • In attendance are three aunts – sisters – who call themselves the comadres and seem to possess an intuitive gift.
    • The three sisters comfort Esperanza, who feels weird about the whole death thing. They study Esperanza's hands and tell her to make a wish.
    • The sisters seem to know Esperanza's wish, and tell her that it will come true. One of the aunts tells her that she "will always be Mango Street," and that when she leaves, she must always promise to come back for those who cannot leave as easily (41.32).
    • Esperanza goes outside to join Lucy and Rachel, and says goodbye to the three sisters. She never sees them again.
  • Chapter 42

    Alicia & I Talking on Edna's Steps

    • Alicia listens to Esperanza as she expresses her sadness over not having a home of which she's proud.
    • Alicia says that, like it or not, Esperanza is Mango Street, and that one day she'll return to it.
    • Esperanza says she'll never return to Mango Street until someone makes it better.
    • Alicia asks Esperanza who's going to make it better. The mayor?
    • The thought of the mayor coming to Mango Street makes Esperanza laugh. She knows the mayor will never do anything to help the people of Mango Street.
  • Chapter 43

    A House of My Own

    • Esperanza dreams of having a house of her own. It won't be a man's house – a husband's or a daddy's. And it won't be an apartment. It will be a whole house, all to herself.
    • The house will be a clean space for Esperanza to create – "clean as paper before the poem" (43.2).
  • Chapter 44

    Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes

    • In the final chapter of the novel, Esperanza tells us that she likes to tell stories. Then she tells us that she's going to tell us a story "about a girl who didn't want to belong" (44.3).
    • Esperanza recounts the many streets on which her family has lived, but says that the place she remembers most is the "sad red house" on Mango Street (44.4).
    • Writing helps Esperanza feel better, and helps to free her from her environment. When she puts her experiences down on paper, something strange happens – "Mango says goodbye sometimes" (44.5).
    • Does this mean Esperanza isn't on Mango Street anymore? No. She's still stuck there for now. But she writes that "one day [she] will say goodbye to Mango" (44.6).
    • Esperanza imagines that her friends and neighbors will wonder where she has gone with her books and paper. They will not know that she has gone away to come back for the people she has left behind.