The House on Mango Street | Study Guide

Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street | Chapters 5–8 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5: Cathy Queen of Cats

One of Esperanza's new neighbors is Cathy, who says she is a distant relative of the queen of France and whose house is full of cats. She gives Esperanza the gossip about all the neighbors before offering to be Esperanza's friend. They'll only be friends until Tuesday, though, because Cathy's family is moving. The neighborhood is "getting bad," according to Cathy.

Chapter 6: Our Good Day

Esperanza meets Lucy and Rachel, sisters who need five dollars so they can buy a bike from a kid who lives down the street. Esperanza knows Cathy won't approve, but she runs into the house to get the money so she and Nenny can have a share of the bike. Cathy is gone when Esperanza comes back, but that's okay because now she has "two new friends and a bike too." Esperanza, Lucy, and Rachel can't decide who gets to ride the bike first, so they all clamber on and take it for a spin around the neighborhood.

Chapter 7: Laughter

Everyone can tell Lucy and Rachel are sisters because they "have the same fat popsicle lips like everybody else in their family." Nenny and Esperanza don't look alike, but they have other things in common, such as their laugh. They also have similar thoughts and instincts. One day Esperanza sees a house that reminds her of houses she had seen in Mexico. Lucy and Rachel look at her like she's crazy, but Nenny says she was thinking the exact same thing.

Chapter 8: Gil's Furniture Bought & Sold

The junk store down the street is owned by an old black man named Gil. He won't turn on the lights of the shop for people who aren't paying customers, so Esperanza and Nenny browse in the dark. One day the man shows them what he calls a "music box," which is nothing like Esperanza has ever seen. Its "big brass record" covered in holes whirls to life, and Esperanza turns away so "Nenny won't see how stupid [she is]" for caring about it. Nenny wants to buy the music box, but Gil says it isn't for sale.

Analysis

Esperanza's first two forays into making friends in her neighborhood are dramatically different. Her first friend, Cathy, is white (as is evidenced by her suspicious familial relation to the queen of France), and her family is moving because the neighborhood is changing. As Esperanza says in Chapter 5, "Cathy Queen of Cats," Cathy's family will move farther away "every time people like us keep moving in." Esperanza can see Cathy's prejudice, but it isn't enough to keep her from agreeing to be Cathy's friend, even if it's just for a few days. She is equally welcoming to Lucy and Rachel, whose "clothes are crooked and old" and who don't use proper grammar. Esperanza is so eager to find a friend that she looks past the things other people might find problematic. This helps make her a sympathetic character in the eyes of the reader and establishes her as a reliable narrator. She tells the truth about everyone she meets but makes very few judgments, never decrying Cathy for being a snob or Lucy and Rachel for their obvious poverty.

Cisneros's background in poetry is evident in her writing, and the descriptions in Chapter 8, "Gil's Furniture Bought & Sold," are particularly lyrical. The reader isn't explicitly told how the music emanating from the music box affects Esperanza, but it's evident in the description of how turning on the music box was like releasing "a million moths all over the dusty furniture and swan-neck shadows." The music is further compared to drops of water and the sound of a marimba crossed with the sound made by "running your fingers across the teeth of a metal comb." These words don't just tell how the music sounds, but they also indicate how deeply the music touches Esperanza. She feels silly about her emotional reaction, but Nenny is oblivious to both that and the power of the music itself. Esperanza and Nenny are alike in many ways, but Esperanza is more attuned to the hidden beauty in life, be it in a person or a music box, while Nenny can only see what's on the outside.

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