Sandra Cisneros’s novel, “The House on Mango Street,” offers a poignant exploration of the development of the main character, Esperanza Cordero, as she navigates the challenges of her upbringing in a disadvantaged Chicano neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza’s identity transforms significantly throughout the novel due to her evolving cultural awareness, her aspirations for independence and self-expression, and her growing sense of responsibility to her community. This essay will delve into these aspects to analyze how Esperanza’s identity changes from the initial first chapter to the novel’s conclusion, demonstrating her remarkable journey of self-discovery and empowerment.
In the opening chapters of the novel, Esperanza introduces herself as a young girl filled with dreams of a better life. Her identity is primarily shaped by her ambitions and her longing for a house of her own, which she can point to as a symbol of her success. Esperanza’s initial identity is rooted in her aspiration to break free from the societal constraints placed on women in her community. She keenly observes the roles and limitations imposed on the women around her, fueling her determination to escape those confines. As she states, “I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to” (Cisneros 5).
Esperanza’s early identity is marked by her desire for economic and social mobility. She recognizes the significance of a physical home as a marker of success, as it represents a departure from the cramped and dilapidated spaces she grew up in. This aspect of her identity is common among many individuals growing up in impoverished neighborhoods, where having a stable and comfortable home can be seen as a measure of achievement.
However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Esperanza’s identity is not solely defined by material aspirations. Her journey of self-discovery reveals the multifaceted nature of her identity, influenced by her cultural heritage, her pursuit of independence, and her sense of responsibility to her community.