The House on Mango Street revolves around one girl and her struggle to fit the puzzle pieces of her identity – ethnicity, gender, cultural inheritance, sexuality, and economic status, to name a few examples – into a coherent whole. All of these facets come into play as Esperanza learns that, more than anything else, what defines her is her ability to tell stories. Her writing allows her to reconcile herself to those aspects of her background that made her feel uncomfortably different from her peers, and she emerges a confident writer with ambitious plans.
Questions About Identity
How does Esperanza identify herself? Do ethnicity, cultural heritage, sexuality, and gender play a part in forming her identity? What about her place of residence, her relationships to her family, and her interest in writing? Which of these aspects are the most important?
How does Esperanza's identity change over the course of the novel? Do you see a difference in the way she presents herself in the first chapter and the last? What has changed?
Why does Esperanza feel like changing her name? What does her name have to do with her identity? Why do you think she feels that Zeze the X would be more appropriate?
What aspects of the protagonist's identity could we change without dramatically altering the narrative? Could we make the protagonist male? Could we change the protagonist's race, age, or sexual orientation? What if her family were wealthy, instead of poor? What if we made her a musician instead of a writer? What if she were the youngest child instead of the oldest? Which of these changes would alter the story the most? How do you think they would affect the overarching message of the novel?
Chew on This
Though The House on Mango Street explores many facets of Esperanza's identity, the most central element of her identity is the role she adopts as a writer.