Shirley’s Response to The House on Mango Street

February 12, 2013 in Blog Responses

In The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, I realized that windows seem to be a reoccurring symbol.  Windows can be associated with imprisonment and longing for change.  These women are confined in their apartment by men, abused and belittled, resulting in a lack freedom and identity.  Due to their entrapment, they are prevented from fulfilling their dreams of a brighter future.

In Rafaela who drinks coconut & papaya juice on Tuesdays, Rafaela demonstrates an example of how women were imprisoned in their homes. Esperanza portrays Rafaela in a fairy tale manner- as if Rafaela is watching the neighborhood from her tower.  ”Rafaela leans out the window and leans on her elbow and dreams her hair is like Rapunzel’s ” (79).  Why did Cisneros choose to describe her in this fairy tale way? Is this a way of escaping reality? Rafaela’s husband locks her in the apartment because he fears she will flee.  Why is Rafaela so submissive to her husband?

Sally illustrates another example- at first she is reprimanded by her father because he fears she will run away.  Esperanza looks up to Sally and becomes very concern about her overprotective father.  To Esperanza, Sally is like a rebel just trying to escape her violent father.  But when Sally’s father sees her talking to boy, she is physically abused: “until the way Sally tells it, he just went crazy, he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt” (93).  Sally claims she’s in love when she gets married in another state, but Esperanza feels this is her way of escaping Mango Street.  I believe her new married life is just as bad as living with her father because now she is dominated by her husband. Her husband doesn’t allow her to talk on the phone, see her friends, nor let her look out the window.  Sally is deprived of her freedom and she dares not to leave the house because she fears of what he will do to her.  Even though her husband is just as bad as her father- what makes this chapter significant? What does Sally gain from her marriage?

8 responses to Shirley’s Response to The House on Mango Street

  1. Great Job Shirley! I also found the “windows” in The House on Mango Street to be a reoccurring motif. Throughout the novel we can see that many of the women on Mango street is full of women who appear to be trapped by their husbands, fathers and children. Esperanza makes a comment in the beginning of the novel about her long great-grandmother who is presently dead, but who used to spend her whole entire life sitting sadly by her window regretting her marriage. We can also see other references to women and windows through Rafaela, Sally and Minerva who also sit by their windows and constantly look out into the streets. These women are unable to communicate which forces them to become confined in themselves. These examples show that Esperanza is trying to be different. (maybe her desires to change her name, address, and everything around her, stems from the need to be different because of fear of failure). Esperanza constantly sees women who are trapped and she tries her hardest not to become one of those women.

  2. Shirley I think you nailed the message Cisnero’s was really trying to convey in these chapters. Cisnero’s is trying to show how women are imprisoned and controlled in society and especially in these ” ghetto ” neighborhoods. Mostly every women Cisnero introduced in the story was being madly mistreated by a male figure. Ruthie was living in her own home with her hurband until he decided no more and Ruthie was left sleeping in her mother’s couch waiting for her husband every weekend but never came. Rafaela was so submissive to her husband because she feels as she has no other choice. She has no job and if she leaves her husband she will have nowhere to go or nowhere to stay. So it’s kind of like a pick your poison. What makes the Sally chapter significant is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Sally thought that by her getting married she would be escaping mango street and escaping her abusive father when in reality, she never did. She is even more costrained in her marriage than she was at home, and her husband goes off on random tantrums at times. What Sally gains from her marriage is basically material satisfaction, in which her husband provides money for her.

  3. Likewise, I think this was a great blog because the analysis of the theme of windows definitely speaks volumes. Esperanza’s constant reminder that the neighborhood she lives in and the society she is from, is not friendly to women; she sees the recurring and failed attempts of women to escape the ongoing trend of patriarchal dominance. With each re-occurrence however, Esperanza realizes how severe this entrapment can be. At first, Esperanza is sure she doesn’t want to end up like her grandmother as her grandmother longed to escape by staring out the window; when she is aware of Sally’s situation, the element of terrible physical abuse becomes knowledge to her. “He just went crazy, he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt” (93) I believe this shows the maturity level of Esperanza growing over time and fueling her desire to not conform to the norms of her neighborhood/society. Moreover, she shows interest in preventing this situation for other young women in the future

  4. I totally agree with Shirley’s observations: “I realized that windows seem to be a reoccurring symbol.” There are some common problems and points that we can think of in the chapters Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut& Papaya Juice on Tuesday and Sally. Both Rafaela and Sally are too beautiful so their “men” have to lock them in the house because they are afraid that they will escape from them, from the Mango street. I like how the author depicts Rafaela who is locked in her room in very fairy-tale way. It gives the picture of a princess leaning by the window and is waiting for someone to take her away from the tower of captivity. It is sad that these women don’t have freedom and have to be controlled by their husband or father.

  5. Great points Shirley. I really like that you address the reoccurring theme of windows, because I picked up on that one too. It is clear from the beginning of the book that Esperanza wants to be her own woman, not bound to any tradition, stereotype, or mold. As she evolves, it becomes even more clear that she specifically does not want tp spend her life looking out the window, as many of the women she knows have done. It starts with her grandmother, then we see the same submissive, scared, and codependent trait in Mamacita, Rafaela, Minerva, and Sally. I think Esperanza feels some sense of responsibility for these women, because she feels like they just allow these cruel things to happen to them, rather than taking a stand to defend themselves.

  6. Good job on your analysis Shirley! I like how you mentioned the symbolism of the window and how it represents imprisonment and an escape from reality. It could represent an escape as it allows you to see something new, another view. So, I feel that it was a way for Rafaela to escape reality. Usually when you look out a window, you reflect and Rafaela could be reflecting on her life and the life she wants for herself. The story reads,”On the corner there is music from the bar, and Rafaela wishes she could go there and dance before she gets old”(79). Rafaela wishes for a better life. I think Rafaela is submissive to her husband because she’s afraid of him and afraid of being on her own. The chapter with Sally is significant because it shows how getting married doesn’t guarantee happiness. Sally gets married when she is very young and shows the naïveté present through the novel. Sally mostly gains material items from marriage. The novel reads,”Sally says she likes being married because now she gets to buy her own things when her husband gives her money”(101). Sally enjoys the monetary value of being married, not the emotional.

  7. Great response Shirley. I enjoyed your post because I also felt as if windows were an important theme. Rafaela stares out the window because she looks back on the past and the possibilities that could await her. Cisneros describes her in a fairytale way because she wanted to show even in a fairy tales not everyone lives “happily ever after”. Using this fairy tales shows that Rafaela felt trapped and was seeking for someone to save her. Rafaela and Sally are both trapped by oppressive men. These women are both scared to leave because they are afraid of what their husbands will do. Mango street seems to be a prison for women trying to fulfill their dreams.

  8. Hi Shirley, I really like how you found symbolism in the windows as a metaphor for “imprisonment and longing”. It’s a detail thats easy to overlook but manages to fit in nicely with the overall theme of Esperanza’s journey into adulthood. The back to back episodes, involving Rafaela and Mamacita, are occurrences that are internalized by Esperanza and help project her fears and desires of not becoming trapped and leaving Mango street.”One day I will say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here together” (last page).

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