The Home and Family in The House on Mango Street and Cry, the Beloved Country

April 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

The House on Mango Street and Cry, the Beloved Country both involve themes emphasizing the home and family. From the old umfundisi seeking for his prodigal son to Esperanza searching and wanting a place of her own, both of these prolific stories involve how one reacts to the attraction of home and family. These novels have different writing styles and different ideas about the home as a place of refuge and belonging and these ideas are shown throughout each story. Over all, it is the main characters who show through their experiences why they desire to come back to a place they call home.In The House on Mango Street, Esperanza communicates through her experiences that “home” is a dream that looks bleak from the poverty of Mango Street. For example, she says, “I knew then I had to have a real house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The House on Mango Street isn’t it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary says Papa. But I know how those things go” (Cisneros, 5). For Esperanza, a real home is something distant and cloudy, something she can only look forward to in her dreams. Esperanza really desires a home where she can feel like she belongs, a home not just solid on the outside, but on the inside as well. In addition, the poverty on Mango Street causes more heartache for Esperanza and makes her dream even more sorrowful. For example, the shame Esperanza feels when a nun asks her where she lives is shown in her words: “There. I had to look where she was pointing – the third floor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn’t fall out” (Cisneros, 5). The mortification Esperanza feels from having to point to the apartment over a “laundromat” with peeling paint and barred windows causes much shame and further solidifies her dream for a “real” house. Here we see the main theme of the novel and one that is woven around the story: Esperanza’s desire to find a physical and emotional space of her own, a place to call home. For Esperanza, her experiences on the poverty – stricken Mango Street shame her, until her dream of a real house is just that.In Cry, the Beloved Country, the old parson’s journey to Johannesburg and back portrays how the author, Alan Paton, felt about the unity and importance of family and nations. For example, a major theme that Paton develops is that family life in South Africa is broken; he illustrates this primarily through the Kumalo family, but then also mentions other instances of broken families, like the Jarvis family. The troubles mentioned in Johannesburg help Kumalo to realize that villages such as Ixopo and the nation of South Africa in general need to be reunited. This is portrayed in another way through the poverty – filled streets of Johannesburg and through the work of Arthur Jarvis, who wrote so the nation of South Africa might come together. In addition, the author makes the journey of Kumalo the central idea to branch off, showing how it is the family that makes up the home. Like Esperanza, Kumalo dreams of a house, not a house of his own, but a house united by family. This is a key difference between the main characters of each novel; Esperanza wants a house strong on the outside, one that appears beautiful, while Kumalo wants a house strong on the inside, one that is united by family. Paton seeks to show the importance of a united family by portraying the sights that Kumalo sees while on his journey to find his son.Both of these interesting novels provide insights into the culture that surrounded the time that these books were written, and it is the culture that provides background and ideas for each novel. For example, the adjustment of Esperanza as she moves from place to place was a predominant issue for every Latina girl who was poor. The way Cisneros used Esperanza as a narrator helped the readers to understand the problems ethnic families, especially Hispanics faced in big cities. This was a major factor and underlying theme that Cisneros wanted to show in her novel: the hardships facing a poor Latina girl. In addition, Paton attempts to weave the concept of apartheid, a key argument for South Africa, throughout the parson’s journey to exemplify the need for the unity of races. Paton intended to remind the reader of the real reason of the hatred and poverty of Johannesburg and other countries: the hatred of one race for another. As Msimangu says, “I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men, desiring neither power nor money, but desiring only the good of their country, come together to work for it” (Paton, 460). This theme is again conveyed in Msimangu’s words, “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.” Both authors provide cultural references and insertions to help the reader understand the reasons for the writing of each novel.These novels were written by authors who intended to send a message to the people of their day. Although the times are later and the ideas have changed, these books still hold forth truths to heed. Alan Paton seemed to say, “hold on to your family and appreciate them, they may not be around later.” And as for Esperanza, she seems to say that we should value our family, strive for something better, and never lose you dreams. Both authors seem to want all readers to remember that the journey of life through the big city is hard, but with family united by love it is like coming home again.

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