The House on Mango Street | Study Guide

Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street | Chapters 41–44 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41: The Three Sisters

Lucy and Rachel's baby sister dies. Esperanza goes to the wake, where she meets three old women—sisters—who "smelled like Kleenex or the inside of a satin handbag." Esperanza gets the feeling they have the power to "sense what was what." They call her over, look at her hands, and tell her to make a wish. They promise it will come true. The one with hands "like porcelain" tells her, "When you leave you must remember always to come back." Esperanza is both startled the old woman knows her wish and ashamed for being so selfish. Esperanza promises, and the woman lets her go. She never sees the three sisters again.

Chapter 42: Alicia & I Talking on Edna's Steps

Alicia is from Guadalajara, Mexico. She considers Guadalajara her home, and she plans to go back there someday. Esperanza is jealous Alicia has a place she feels she belongs and a place she can go back to. Alicia points out Esperanza already has that—it's the house on Mango Street. Esperanza shakes her head. "I don't ever want to come from here," she says. She doesn't want to be from Mango Street until "somebody makes it better." They both laugh at the idea of the mayor coming to the neighborhood.

Chapter 43: A House of My Own

Esperanza wants a house that belongs to nobody but her, quiet and "clean as paper before the poem."

Chapter 44: Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes

Esperanza likes to tell stories. When she writes about her life, "the ghost does not ache so much," and "Mango says goodbye sometimes." Writing makes her feel free. She knows she will someday leave Mango Street. Everyone will ask where she went and why she went so far away. They will not understand she has "gone away to come back ... For the ones who cannot out."

Analysis

Esperanza is obsessed with the idea of home: what it is, what it means, and how she can get one of her own. To her, home is an idyllic place of freedom and independence. She envies Alicia for having a tangible place she can dream about, a place upon which she can project her goals and her future. Esperanza doesn't know what her future looks like, but she knows she wants it to be as far away from Mango Street as possible. She thinks the neighborhood is a hindrance to achieving her dreams. Alicia, on the other hand, sees it as an advantage. "You are Mango Street," she says. No matter what Esperanza does in life, the people of Mango Street and her experiences there will be part of her foundation. It has helped shaped her into who she is today and who she will become as an adult. The quiet, clean house Esperanza fantasizes about is just that—a house—but her heart is what will make it a home. This is what Elenita alludes to when she talks about "a home in the heart" in Chapter 24, "Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water," but Esperanza wasn't ready to understand it then. Alicia and the old women in Chapter 41, "The Three Sisters," help her see Mango Street can be a part of her life without controlling it.

The three old women at the wake are a nod to the three Fates from Greek mythology. These goddesses are said to determine the course of a person's life as well as when the life will end. They're usually depicted as very old women, just like the three sisters who seem to already know everything about Esperanza. Are they really aunts, as they introduce themselves? Or are they the actual Fates of myth attending the wake as a courtesy after ending the baby's life? It seems Esperanza could be convinced of the latter, as she describes them as "not seem[ing] to be related to anything but the moon." Whether they are human or not, they are able to read Esperanza's desires and fears far better than Elenita ever could. This is a sign that Esperanza has spiritually disengaged from the neighborhood after her assault and is focused solely on her escape. Like Alicia, they are a reminder of everything Mango Street has given Esperanza and the need for her to give back in return.

The House on Mango Street covers just a year in Esperanza's life, but her future is clear to the reader as she begins to tell her story again in Chapter 44, "Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes." She goes back to the first lines of the book: "We didn't always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis." This time, she makes sure to include her own happy ending. Writing is what will set her free from Mango Street so she can search for her home and herself. When she returns, it will be to share what she has learned, to improve the community that raised her, and to give hope to other girls who want more than to sit by the window while the world passes them by.

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