Usage of Symbolism in The House on Mango Street
You may choose a particular part of your life or event and you may represent your story creatively (as a portfolio, website, blog, media presentation, Ted Talk). Think about ideas of success and inquiry as you represent your childhood, adolescent, or young/adulthood culture. What have you learned about yourself? How do you represent yourself? House on Green Lane House on Mango Street isn’t a book that my life particularly relates to. But I can say that certain events and situations that I have encountered can be related back to themes present in the House on Mango Street. One theme that is present in both my life as well as the book is the struggle for self-definition. Throughout the book, Esperanza struggles to be a woman and an artist. Throughout the book, we can clearly see how Esperanza’s perception of her identity changes. At first, she didn’t want to accept her name so she can define herself apart from her ancestry and family heritage. She wanted to be away from her family so she could start a new life on her own and changing her name seemed to be an important step. We then see Esperanza becoming more sexually aware. She attempts to become friends with Sally to become “beautiful and cruel.”
After her sexual assault experience, she then becomes confused on who she is and what she wants sexually. I have seen examples of this in my friends’ lives as well. Throughout my high school career, I had moved neighborhoods. I went from a predominately poor ethnic neighborhood to a rich White neighborhood. I have seen several cases of issue with gender identity. One of my African American friends wanted to come out as gay but was too afraid to tell her parents and hid it from them for almost two years. She felt that already being a minority that being gay would hinder her opportunities and would cause her parents to be both worried and scared for her. After several months of debating, my friend finally comes out to her parents and they took it pretty harshly. They blamed themselves for why she was gay and seemed to look at the situation in a pessimistic way. Just like my ethnic friend, one of my White friends was also gay. Being rich and well off, she was never worried about how being gay would affect her future. She told her parents as soon as she identified herself as gay and was able to move past the coming out process pretty well. Her parents also took it a lot better then the parents of my African American friend. This was the first time, I had seen a distinct difference in both cultures and was able to identify the reasoning behind it. Another theme present throughout the book is sexual identity. I can also relate this well to my life since my best friend had struggles several times to sexually identify herself. All throughout high school, my best friend had struggled through abusive relationships and was never truly happy with who she was. During our sophomore year, she came out as gay but no one believed her and it brought down her self-esteem. She soon began to doubt her own identity and failed to share with the world what her true feeling were. This then got worse when she came to college.
My friend was sexually assaulted during the first week of college and it took a huge toll on her academics as well as her social life. She soon began distancing herself and questioned the reasoning behind her sexual identity and her gender itself. She has now overcome her past and is in therapy. This relates to House on Mango Street because just like my friend, Esperanza had struggled with sexual identity and after her sexual assault experiences she was confused with her identity as well. We also see a theme of unfulfilled responsibility. Throughout the book, we see Esperanza take on more responsibilities. She initially starts out only being responsible for her younger sister, Nenny. But as she becomes closer friends with Sally, she realizes that she also has to be responsible for her as a friend. In once scene, we see Esperanza acting responsible for Sally by making sure she would not have to kiss a group of boys in the Monkey Garden. Later, when Esperanza needs someone to take care of her, Sally fails to be a good friend which takes a toll on Esperanza. Being female friends, Esperanza expected Sally to protect her and when she didn’t it affected her relationship with herself. Esperanza eventually accepts that and understand that she will always be the person to feel responsible for others. I can relate to this well since I was the oldest child in my household. I have always had the responsibility of taking care of my younger sisters even when they hadn’t felt the same way. Even today, I always feel responsible for their safety and well being even though they’re a lot older and are capable of taking care of themselves. House on Mango Street also has a bunch of symbols, which relate to the themes of the book. One of the main symbols would be the shoes that the characters wear. Throughout the book, there are several scenes where we witness how the type of shoes Esperanza wears evokes a different image of sex and adult femininity. Esperanza first makes this connection between high heels and sex when Lucy and Rachel try on some heels that a neighbor gave to them. To Esperanza, the shoes allowed them to become pretty women with long legs instead of children. At first, Esperanza doesn’t think much of them but items to play with, but eventually it takes a toll on her sexual life.
As Esperanza is exposed to more shoes she realizes she can’t get rid of them so easily. Later, we see a scene where Esperanza attends a dance and is almost paralyzed since she did not wear heels. This shows how consumed Esperanza became to the symbolism of the heels. She truly believed that having heels would make her sexually mature. This kind of relates to my early adolescence as well. Ever since I was a kid, my parents were completely against me wearing heels and as a child I didn’t understand that but now looking back, I see where they were coming from. Heels aren’t just about some shoes but they bring some maturity to you as a whole. It also affects the way people look at you which can make a huge difference in society.
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