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The House on Mango Street | Study Guide

Sandra Cisneros

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The House on Mango Street | Quotes


I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 3

Esperanza Cordero feels as if she is responsible for her younger sister, Nenny Cordero, when they are roaming the neighborhood with the other kids. This prevents Esperanza from having a best friend, and therefore a personal life, of her own. Nenny will be Esperanza's "anchor" until Nenny is old enough to take care of herself.


I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 4

Esperanza Cordero is named after her great-grandmother Esperanza, "a wild horse of a woman" who became tame after marrying. She "looked out the window her whole life" instead of experiencing life herself. Esperanza wants her life to turn out differently.


What matters ... is for the boys to see us and for us to see them.

Marin, Chapter 11

Marin, who is older than Esperanza, thinks her only ticket to a better life is through marriage. She is more concerned with being noticed by boys than forging friendships with the other girls on the block.


All brown all around, we are safe.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 12

Outsiders who visit Mango Street are scared by the neighborhood, but Esperanza Cordero isn't scared by the skin color of her neighbors. Everyone looks alike, so everyone feels safe.


A woman's place is sleeping so she can wake up early with the tortilla star.

Alicia's father, Chapter 14

Alicia takes care of her family and goes to college, but her father thinks a woman's place is in the home, not school. He discourages her from her studies so she can get enough rest to focus on the family. His attitude is representative of the common belief on Mango Street that a woman's place in the home.


We must be Christmas.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 17

All the men on the street watch Esperanza Cordero, Lucy, and Rachel sashay around in their new high heels. The attention makes Esperanza feel incredibly special.


We are tired of being beautiful.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 17

Esperanza Cordero, Lucy, and Rachel ditch their new high heels due to the increasingly unwanted attention they garner, particularly from a bum who tries to pay them to kiss him. This is the first time they come face-to-face with the dangers of female beauty and the resulting fear they feel. They decide it's easier just to be children.


You gotta be able to know what to do with hips when you get them.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 20

Esperanza Cordero, Lucy, and Rachel talk about what it means to have hips. Esperanza takes the lead in the conversation, acting more worldly and knowledgeable than she is. She wants the other girls to think she is sophisticated and womanly, but she doesn't really know what she's talking about.


I see a home in the heart.

Elenita, Chapter 24

Elenita reads Esperanza Cordero's tarot cards. Esperanza wants to know if there's a better house in her future, but Elenita insists Esperanza's true home will be in her heart. Esperanza is disappointed.


Just another wetback. You know the kind.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 25

Esperanza Cordero is relating the story of Geraldo, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident. She thinks this is how the (likely non-Hispanic) police officers and medical personnel feel when a Mexican kid with no identification shows up in the emergency room. They don't care about him because he's not like them.


My father says when he came to this country he ate hamandeggs for three months.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 30

Esperanza Cordero's father didn't know much English when he came to the United States. All he knew in terms of food was "ham and eggs," so that's what he ate. She tells this story in reference to Mamacita, who doesn't know English and doesn't want to learn it. Unlike Mamacita, Papa learned more words and never ate "hamandeggs" again.


I don't know which way she'll go. There is nothing I can do.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 33

Esperanza is talking about Minerva, who is just a little bit older than Esperanza but has a husband and two children. On the rare occasion when her husband is home, he beats her. Minerva has kicked him out before, but he always comes back. Esperanza isn't sure which path Minerva will take—whether she will leave her husband for good or stay and take his abuse. Esperanza can't help Minerva make that decision, nor can she protect her. All she can do is learn from Minerva's mistakes.


I am tired of looking at what we can't have.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 34

Esperanza's family likes to drive through the fancy neighborhoods and dream about what life could be like if they won the lottery. Esperanza gets no pleasure from these outings—they only remind her of what she doesn't have. She so desperately wants her life to be different that any reminders of what she wants are full of pain, not hope.


You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street.

Sister with porcelain hands, Chapter 41

The sister with porcelain hands cautions Esperanza Cordero that physically departing Mango Street does not mean she will leave it in the past. The people she's met and the experiences she's had on Mango Street have shaped her into who she is and will influence what she does in the future. As such, she should honor Mango Street instead of scorning it.


They will not know I have gone away to come back.

Esperanza Cordero, Chapter 44

Many people who live in the barrio can't imagine a life outside of it, and Esperanza Cordero knows they will wonder why she left. After her year of introspection, Esperanza realizes she wants to leave not to escape the barrio, but to make it a better place for those who don't have the means to leave. This revelation demonstrates her understanding of how the neighborhood has impacted her life and her desire to help those who also dream of a free and independent life.

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