Literature Study GuidesThe House On Mango StreetIntroduction A House Of My Own Summary

The House on Mango Street | Study Guide

Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street | Introduction: A House of My Own | Summary

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The 2009 edition ofThe House on Mango Street has a 25th anniversary introduction by the author and 44 chapters. This study guide groups chapters together for the purpose of analysis.

Summary

The 2009 edition of The House on Mango Street, which is the 25th anniversary edition, includes an introduction from the author, Sandra Cisneros. She reflects on the writing of the book, which took place during and after her tenure at the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She writes about her experiences in both the first and third person, often referring to herself as "the young woman" and "the daughter."

After finishing graduate school, "the young woman" (Cisneros) moves back to her parents' house in Chicago. She has always wanted a space of her own, so she goes against her father's wishes and manages to secure herself a tiny apartment. Her father can't understand why she wants to live by herself or why she has no interest in being a "TV weather girl." Good girls find husbands and start a family. But the young woman insists on her independence and keeps writing at night. During the day, she teaches at-risk high school students, ones who have dropped out and then returned to school, in English courses. Her students' life stories and her own experiences find their way into her writing, connected to one another by the voice of a fictional first-person narrator, Esperanza. After teaching, she counsels and recruits college students at the university from which she graduated, Loyola University.

Cisneros leaves Chicago for San Antonio. Her mother comes to visit. Cisneros wants to show off her office and the spiral staircase to the rooftop. Her mother is pleased, and they watch the stars and the full moon from the top of the building. Her mother dies just a few days later. This edition of the book is dedicated to her.

Analysis

Sandra Cisneros has insisted in several interviews that The House on Mango Street was never intended to be an autobiography, but there are connections between her personal life and the world she creates for the main character of the book, Esperanza Cordero (who shares Cisneros's mother's maiden name). Like Esperanza, Cisneros is Mexican American, and she, too, grew up in a culture that emphasized the woman's place within the home. When she wrote The House on Mango Street, Cisneros had no interest in marriage or family life because there were simply too many other things she wanted to do. She had seen firsthand the effects of putting aside one's dreams to raise a family. Her mother, Elvira Cordero Cisneros, was skillful and smart, but her education ended at the ninth grade. "She knows what it is to live a life filled with regrets," Cisneros writes, which is why her mother encourages her to live the kind of life she wants. Elvira Cisneros is the model for Esperanza's mother, who can sing and fix the television and knows all sorts of things but quit school because she was ashamed of her clothing.

Both writer and main character dream about having "a silent home ... the way other women dreamed of their weddings." They wish for a place of their own that feels like home, where they can write without interruption and focus entirely on their desires. The stories they tell come from the people they know. Cisneros combines the experiences of her students, friends, and acquaintances with fictional details and settings that are intimately familiar to her, such as the monkey garden and the neighborhood in which she spent her teenage years. She draws on the emotions of her adolescence to fuel Esperanza's voice as she tells the story of a girl trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs, much as Cisneros felt when she was writing the book. Like Esperanza, she didn't know where she was going, but she knew the paths she didn't want to take.

Cisneros uses both the first and third person in the introduction to demonstrate how she has changed since she wrote The House on Mango Street in the early 1980s. After 25 years of life experience, she is no longer the insecure dreamer breaking with family and cultural tradition to live her life the way she wants. She is comfortable with who she is and views her former self at a distance from who she is today.

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