The House on Mango Street | Study Guide

Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street | Chapters 25–28 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25: Geraldo No Last Name

Marin went to a dance and met a boy named Geraldo. She doesn't know his last name, but the police want to interview her because she was the last person who saw him before he died as the result of a hit-and-run accident. At the hospital emergency room, he dies due to blood loss. Geraldo's death doesn't seem to matter to anyone except Marin. Everyone else sees him as "[j]ust another wetback," but Marin understands how hard he was working to send money home to his family in Mexico and how meager his own existence was. No one back home will ever know what happened to him, only that he was one of the many who went north and were never heard from again.

Chapter 26: Edna's Ruthie

Ruthie is the adult daughter of Edna, the mean lady who owns the big building next to Esperanza's house. Ruthie is grown-up but plays like a child, which endears her to the neighborhood kids. She doesn't venture past her front yard very often, and when she does "she keeps looking around her like a wild animal in a house for the first time." Ruthie is full of stories about her life, such as how she is married and has a house outside the city and how she used to write children's books. She seems to love books as much as Esperanza does, so Esperanza memorizes all of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" so she can recite it to Ruthie. When she finishes, Ruthie says, "You have the most beautiful teeth I have ever seen," and then goes inside.

Chapter 27: The Earl of Tennessee

Earl lives in the basement of Edna's house. He's from the South, and his accent defines him, as do his "fat cigars" and felt hat. He works nights as a jukebox repairman, and he takes his two little dogs with him wherever he goes. The neighbors don't see much of him except when he comes outside to tell the kids to be quiet so he can sleep. The local gossip is that Earl "is married and has a wife somewhere." The neighbors have spotted her a few times, but nobody can agree on what she looks like.

Chapter 28: Sire

Sire, who is older than Esperanza, stares at her as she walks down the street. It makes her uncomfortable, but she refuses to cross to the other side of the road like some girls do. "I had to prove to me I wasn't scared of nobody's eyes, not even his," she says. Sire doesn't have a great reputation in the neighborhood, particularly with the adults, but Esperanza can't help but be drawn to him. She's even more fascinated by his girlfriend, Lois, who is "tiny and pretty and smells like baby's skin." Lois wears makeup and runs errands for Sire, but she doesn't know how to tie her shoes.

Esperanza looks out her window at night, wishing she were "all new and shiny," sitting outside with "a boy around [her] neck and the wind under [her] skirt." Instead, she imagines things she can't see, such as how Sire holds and kisses Lois.

Analysis

Geraldo's story speaks to the way people outside of Esperanza's community view those who live there as well as the repercussions of their attitudes. Because Geraldo is Mexican, the police officers and hospital employees don't seem to think his life is important, and they can't understand why this boy with no last name means so much to Marin. To them, he's "[j]ust another wetback" who doesn't deserve having his life saved by a surgeon. Marin, who is also from another country, understands Geraldo's situation. Without knowing much about him, she recognizes he, too, has come to the United States to make a better life for himself and for his family back home. She and Geraldo barely knew each other, but they shared several similar experiences, including leaving their families behind and navigating an unfamiliar culture and country. Geraldo matters to Marin because she could have easily been in his place, gravely injured and deemed unimportant because of the color of her skin.

Esperanza's stories about her neighbors don't just bring Mango Street to life; they reinforce her innocence and naiveté by implying the truths she is as yet unable to see. For example, Ruthie says she is married and has a house of her own, yet she lives with her mother. She says she wrote children's books, but she can't read. Esperanza takes those statements at face value, barely pausing to consider their veracity. Yet the reader is meant to view Ruthie's childlike behavior and far-fetched stories as an indication of a larger problem, perhaps a mental disability, that prevents her from functioning as an adult. Esperanza can't see that—she only knows that Ruthie is fun to play with. Likewise, Ruthie's downstairs neighbor Earl is rumored to have a wife, and he keeps coming home with a woman whose looks are always changing. Esperanza hasn't yet realized that one woman is actually several different women, probably prostitutes, which is suggested by Earl's practice of hustling them into the apartment and kicking them out soon afterward. Esperanza automatically assumes the woman she sees is Earl's wife because everyone says he's married. She hasn't considered that he could be married to one woman and sleeping with someone else. Esperanza's narration shows her inexperience and youth while also allowing the reader to determine what is really happening on Mango Street.

Chapter 28, "Sire," is an indication that Esperanza's innocence is slowly melting away. She notices how boys in the neighborhood, particularly Sire, look at her, and she doesn't dislike it. Though she's a little scared of Sire and his friends, she also gets a secret thrill from attracting the attention of the local bad boy. Esperanza's curiosity about Sire's private interactions with Lois are an indication of her own burgeoning sexuality, with which she isn't yet entirely comfortable. She fantasizes about being on the street but watches from the safety of the window, not quite ready to take the leap into the grown-up world of relationships and sex. Her fascination with the couple also speaks to her developing understanding of femininity. Lois and Sire have a traditional relationship in terms of gender roles, where Sire is the powerful caretaker and Lois is the dainty damsel. Everything about Lois, from her toenails to her scent, is pink. She is a girly-girl, and she couldn't be more different from Esperanza. For one thing, Esperanza can tie her own shoes. More importantly, Esperanza is not delicate or overtly feminine, nor does she devote herself to a boy. Yet there is a sense of envy in Esperanza's narration as she describes Lois and also Sire's devotion to her. Esperanza wants to be the type of girl boys desire, but she isn't sure that's possible.

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