The House on Mango Street | Study Guide

Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street | Chapters 13–16 | Summary



Chapter 13: There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn't Know What to Do

Rosa Vargas is a single mom with a lot of poorly behaved children. The kids are always getting into dangerous situations because, according to Esperanza, "[t]hey are without respect for all things living, including themselves." They never heed well-meaning people's warnings, so people eventually give up trying to protect them from harm. That's why Angel Vargas "exploded down to earth" the day he "learned to fly."

Chapter 14: Alicia Who Sees Mice

Alicia goes to college and takes care of the domestic duties at home. Her mother is dead, so it's up to her to get up early to make tortillas for everyone's lunch boxes. She sees mice when she's studying in the middle of the night, but her father insists she's just seeing things. If she closes her eyes and sleeps as women with families should do, he says, the mice will go away.

Chapter 15: Darius & the Clouds

Darius isn't very smart, but he sees a cloud in the sky he says looks like God. Esperanza, who believes one can "never have too much sky," thinks that's the wisest thing he's ever said.

Chapter 16: And Some More

Esperanza, Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel are in the Cordero's yard looking at clouds. Esperanza tells everyone, "Eskimos got thirty different names for snow," and there are at least 10 different names for clouds, such as cumulus and nimbus. Nenny starts assigning the clouds human names as Esperanza trades insults with Lucy and Rachel, which leads to a fight. Both sides try to get Nenny on their team, but she isn't listening. She just keeps naming clouds.


There is at least one other girl on Mango Street besides Esperanza who is trying to improve her circumstances without resorting to marriage. Alicia studies hard so she won't have to take care of her father and her siblings for the rest of her life, but she doesn't have a lot of support. Her dad thinks a woman's place is at home, sleeping instead of studying "so she can wake up early with the tortilla star" and start cooking for the day. Alicia's father's willful ignorance of her goals and the presence of the mice in the house are both symptoms of traditional patriarchal rule: things that don't directly affect the man of the house aren't important.

Alicia's story is a warning to Esperanza, who also has goals that don't involve motherhood and marriage. It isn't yet evident how Esperanza's family feels about her dreams, but without the support and understanding of her family, it will be difficult for her to break free of the barrio. There is every chance she could end up like Rosa Vargas, who is so overwhelmed by single motherhood that she can't control her children. It's a vicious cycle she can't escape: the children are bad because she is tired, and she is tired because the children are bad. Situations such as Rosa's are what make Esperanza look beyond the barrio, where it seems mothers and wives never get their happy endings.

One of the things wrong with the barrio, according to Esperanza, is there's "not enough sky." It is hard to see the sky and the clouds in the city, and her desire for wide open spaces is somewhat poetic. She finds a kindred spirit in Darius when he compares the sky to God. He understands the hope Esperanza feels when she is "drunk on sky." All of this is lost on Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel. Lucy and Rachel overlook the beauty of the natural world and bicker with Esperanza, which suggests they don't have the same aspirations as she does. They will always live in the barrio, so there's no point in being interested in the things outside of it. Nenny, on the other hand, loses herself in the fantasy of clouds with human names. She's a different sort of dreamer than Esperanza, which suggests she will be able to create her own happiness even if she follows the path society expects her to take.

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