The House on Mango Street presents a strong cultural background. Cisnero allows Esperanza to reveal her Mexican background in My Name. Esperanza introduces herself, explaining the meaning of her name and how she inherited it from her grandmother. She shows her love for her culture when she points out how her name sounds better when said in Spanish. She also complains about her disdain for how it sound when said in English. However, Esperanza also writes about how she wishes to change her name into something that would represent her better.
Changing her name would also mean letting go of a part of her that greatly spoke of her ethnicity and background. It is not only her name that Esperanza wishes to change but the direction of her life as well. She speaks about how her grandmother used to be a wild woman, like a horse – free and independent. But after some time, her grandmother was forced to marry and to live a life she had not chosen for herself. This is not what Esperanza wants.
She does not want to relinquish herself to the customs of her culture of getting married and adopting the female roles of a wife and mother. The main character’s negative feelings for the way she is growing up and where she is doing so are not only seen in her desire to change her name but in the way she speaks of her house as well. Although the family’s house in Mango Street is a better change from their old one, Esperanza is still disappointed with it. She does not see it as a house that she can show off to her friends or that she, herself, can take pride in.
Esperanza’s parents continuously assure her and her siblings that the house is only temporary but Esperanza know that it is not. She keeps thinking of the house that she wants, a spacious house with many bathrooms. Esperanza’s disappointment with their house is also indicative of her disappointment with their neighborhood. The house, for her, is the epitome of the destitute neighborhood they live in. Esperanza constantly writes about wanting to leave the house and escape the limitations of the neighborhood.
It is clear here that Esperanza not only wants to change her name but the house and neighborhood she lives in as well. This can also be construed as a turning away from the culture she has grown up in. Change, in Esperanza’s case, can still be made, however, without detracting from the culture and ethnic backgrounds on which her life has been founded. This is what Esperanza learns near the end of the stories. She realizes that even though the environment and the circumstances are not ideal, she still belongs in Mango Street, in her culture and background.
Even though she still wants to improve her situation, she knows she can not do it without coming to terms with her background. Acceptance of who one is and where one comes from is essential when trying to move on into a brighter future. Change does not necessitate throwing away the past. In fact, change requires the use of the foundations of the past. Taking one’s culture and background and shaping it to be more appropriate for the uses of the present allows change to take place without disregarding heritage.
How far can this “shaping” go, however, without subtracting too much from the quality of the culture? There is no exact answer but one truth should be acknowledged: culture is ingrained, instilled in an individual no matter how great the change. Especially in individuals like Esperanza who grew up in the thick of the customs and traditions of their culture, even changing their name or their residence would not hide their culture. Esperanza was correct, however, in realizing that change could only be done by accepting the past and building from it.
Identity: The House On Mango Street By Sandra Cisneros
Race, Class, and Culture:
How it affects your Identity
Identity is defined as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is” (Oxford University Press). Personal identity deals with questions that arise about ourselves by virtue of our being people. Some of these questions are familiar that happen to all of us every once in a while: What am I? When did I begin? What will happen to me when I die? There are many different categories that define us as people (Olson). Our Race, Class, and Culture define who we are so much that it affects how we should live our life.
Race is a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, and/or social affiliation (Babylon). In the story, “Everyday Use”, two young girls are raised by the same family but one child acts as if race is not an issue whereas the other child’s race becomes the center of her identity. Maggie knows more about her African American heritage than Dee does. Dee’s identity comes from her upbringing, from her great grandmother, to grandmother, to her own mother. Maggie’s identity seems to be solely based on her race.
The House on Mango Street deals with the issues of not fitting in and being discriminated against because of your race. In the story, “The House on Mango Street”, Esperanza says, “All brown all around, we are safe (Updike). But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight (Updike). This statement makes me think of how I would feel if I were in Esperanza’s shoes. Esperanza and her family do not feel like they belong because of their race. The family is not sure who they are or where they belong. You can understand Esperanza and her family to strive for upward mobility. They want better for themselves and continue to believe that it will someday happen. Deep down Esperanza thinks owning a better house is not likely to happen. If you have ever felt like this then you know how Esperanza feels.
You get the same feeling when walking into an event where you are the only one there of your race. I have had this happen to me before and it is not a very comfortable feeling. Some people treat people different because of the race they are. Unfortunately, this happens in the job industry as well. Some people are not hired because of their race even though it’s supposed to be an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Class is a relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, education, status/position, and/or power (Aronowitz). There is no precise definition or delineation of class groups. The different kinds of classes are: upper class, middle class, working class, and poor. Our class position and identity can change during our lifetimes as our income, wealth, and occupational status change. Some people may say that working...
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