In her novel, The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cineros portrays Latino women in a society that treats them as second class citizens who are dominated by men and valued for what they look like, and not who they are. She wants us to see how hard the life of the Latino woman is and the obstacles she must overcome to be treated equally.
The women in the novel are looked upon as objects by their men. The girls grow up thinking that looks and appearance are the most important things. Cisneros also shows how Latino women are expected to be obedient and controlled by their husbands. On the other hand, Cisneros portrays Esperanza as being different. Even though she grows up in the same culture, she is not satisfied with it and knows that someday she will because she is strong and has talent for telling stories. She comes back through her stories by showing the women that they can be independent and live their own lives. This is Cinceros' way of coming back and giving back to the women in her community.
The Latino women and girls in the novel are extremely concerned about their appearances, because they are dependent on men making their lives better. If they don't look good, then they are not noticed, and if they are not noticed, then they won't end up getting married. One good example is Marin. When talking about a real job Marin says that the best work is downtown, not because of the work that is there, but because "you always get to look beautiful and were nice clothes." She also tells the girls that the only thing that matters is if your skirts are short, and your eyes are pretty, so that the guys notice them. Cisneros is showing us once again the only values that the Latino woman has are the values placed upon them by men.
The importance of the clothes is shown one day when the girls are given a bag of high heeled shoes that Esperanza calls "magic high-heels." When the girls put on the shoes they felt like Cinderella. They spend time learning how to cross and uncross their legs and how to walk down to the corner "so that the shoes talk back to you with every step." Esperanza says that "the men can't take their eyes off us," The girls don't seem to mind this treatment either. They enjoy it, because they are too young to understand that they are being treated as objects, not people.
In the chapter, "Sally", Cisneros describes a girl that she admires but doesn't explain anything about her besides her looks. She describes her as having "eyes like Egypt, and nylons the color of smoke." Esperanza is very envious of sally and wants to look like her, and have black suede shoes, and Smoky nylons. Even though Esperanza knows that Sally will probably be headed for trouble, because of her grown-up looks, she considers herself "the ugly daughter" and sometimes minds being the "one nobody comes for."
Throughout the story we see that Latino women think that their ultimate goal in life is to find a man and get married . In a way this is the Latino version of the "Pretty trap ,"because Latino girls have been taught by the people around them that being pretty is a talent that can get them somewhere in life. In describing Marin, for example, Cisneros explains that Marin is standing on the street "waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life." In other words, if you are a woman you need a man to make your life worthwhile. Esperanza has determined not to grow up like the other girls and be dominated by men.
However, Cisneros shows many examples of women getting married and completely being controlled by their husbands. She describes women who are prisoners in their own houses, who look out the window their whole lives, and sit their sadness on one elbow. Sally is one example. Sally, who is been kept inside her whole life, gets married before eighth grade. She gets married to get away from all the troubles she has with her father. "She says, she's in love but I think she did it to escape," says Esperanza. Sally also has a home and things of her own now. Her husband, however, does not let her talk on the phone, visit with friends or look out the window. Her days are spent alone looking at all the things that they own. " The Towels and toaster, and alarm clock and drapes." Esperanza realizes that although Sally now has all the material things a husband can provide, her life is not worth very much because she is trapped in a room with nothing to do, except look at the things that she owns.
Cisneros also describes Rafaela, whose husband locks her indoors because he is afraid that she will run away. She is young and dreams that she has hair like Rapunzel's.
With this comparison, Cisneros tells us that Rafaela is waiting to be rescued. Instead Rafaela sits in her home and listens to music that comes from the bar down the street, hoping to go there someday to dance. She too has traded her freedom for her husband. Now that she us not able to buy herself a drink from the store. She is "getting old from leaning out her window."
Cisneros indicates that some of the Hispanic man abuse their wives. Minerva is a woman Cisneros indicates that Minerva is being abused. She says that Minerva cries "because her luck is unlucky." She has many troubles in life, the biggest one being her husband. Even though she throws him out, she takes him back, and everything starts all over again only to end up the same way it started. She is all black and blue, and asks "What can I do."
Even though Cisneros portrays most of the Latino women in these ways, she wants her readers to know that Esperanza is different. In the chapter "My name," she tells us that her grandmother had the same name, and that she admires her grandmother because she was " a wild horse of a woman," like her Grandmother Esperanza was born in the year of the horse, which signifies strength. Esperanza feels that she will grow up to be a strong woman. She is determined to leave Mango Street and lead her own life . Cisneros lets us know that as much as Esperanza admires her grandmother she is determined not to "inherit her place by the window."
In the chapter "Beautiful Cruel," Esperanza makes this clear by saying "but I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the thresh-hold waiting for the ball and chain." She has started her own was. She says "I am the one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate the." In the last chapter she lets us know how she plans to become her own woman, because she has the ability to tell stories. She is different and can part with Mango Street. She is strong enough to go away, but she knows she will return through her writing to help weaker woman who "cannot get out."
Cisneros uses the book The House on Mango Street to show that people who grow up living with people with the same view of the world, then you never have a chance to see it differently. She is saying its hard to imagine a better life for yourself, when you don't know what to imagine. She creates the character Esperanza to show us that that every once in a while one person can be different, and try to make their life better, and the