Sometime in our lives, we have wished for things we don’t have. No matter how hard we wished on the star or a candle, our wishes never seemed to be answered. We have all felt that bitter disappointment on Christmas morning when we finally realized that we were never going to be able to have what we want. This is the same exact feelings that the characters in Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.
Unlike us, the disappointment for these characters last throughout their childhood.
Esperanza, Rachel, Nenny, Sally, and Lucy are among the kids growing up on Mango Street. They all long for friendship, love, and a better life, but all these kids face are the harsh reality of the “real world.” In the society that Esperanza and her friends live in, love takes a back seat when it comes to relationships.
“Someday, I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to.
One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them.” These are the longing words of Esperanza. While growing up on Mango Street, Esperanza finds herself in a community that she feels she doesn’t belong to. With all her heart, she longs for a true friend that she can tell her dreams to and will understand her for it.
These wishes seem easy enough to grant, but Esperanza soon finds out that there is more to friendship. “If you give me five dollars, I will be your friend forever.
” Esperanza discovers that she can not have anything for nothing. Rachel and Lucy sure enough become her friends, but only after she helped them pay for the bike. Esperanza never does truly find a real friend who shares the same goal as she does because all the friends she has have more problems than her. For instance, Sally was a friend for whom Esperanza cared for.
When Esperanza was raped, Sally was not there to help her and when Esperanza tried to prevent Sally from making a mistake, Sally told her to leave. All Esperanza wanted was a friendship that would help her escape her life, but all she ended up with were friendships that reminded her of her broken dreams because in her society nothing was given for free and the people she was associated with didn’t have the same goals as she did. Another one of those broken dreams was the concept of love. Esperanza was not the only one who longed for a man’s endless love. Marin, Esperanza, Rafaela, and Sally are all “waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.” These girls are all waiting for “prince charming” to come and sweep them off their feet. They believe that the right man will come and love them for who they are and take them away to a nice house.
Marin says that she will move in and marry her boyfriend, but the harsh reality is that she will only be sent to a worse life. Cisneros uses the story of Rapunzel to describe Rafaela’s life. She longs to be free of the “tower” and do as she pleases, but all she gets is a husband who keeps her locked up in the apartment and that is where she will remain. In Sally’s case, she wants a man to love her and she thinks she can achieve that by using her body. Sally eventually gets married to a man who provides her with riches, but she will never be an individual. All of these outcomes are the results of the girls not doing anything for themselves.
They are not willing to, or don’t have the strength to reach out for what they want and try to achieve it. Esperanza, too also longs for the love of a man. She thinks that love is a fairy tale. Nothing about love that was told to her turned out to be true after she experienced what men thought of as love. In all respects, the “thing” that the characters in The House on Mango Street strived for was a better life. This proved true in the case of Esperanza. A fairy tale element that was used was the Old Lady who had so many children.
The old lady would just gripe about her misfortune and neglected what was granted to her. Her fate was the result of her own doing because she wasn’t willing to face the hardships and make do with what she had. Esperanza has always dreamed of living in a house all her own. Her house would have indoor plumbing, white shutters, a picket fence, and a nice neighborhood. Esperanza never got any of these things. Instead, she got a “home in the heart.” Esperanza realizes that no matter who much she wanted to escape her life on Mango Street, it would always be a little tag that followed her. This is so because she learned and grew up in that house. She may think she doesn’t belong, but she belongs as much as the four trees that were on the street. Esperanza and her friends always knew that in their hearts, there was no way to escape the lives they lived.
The residents of Mango street all had their own ideas on love, friends, a good life, but what they got were the totally opposite. The reason being is that they did not strive for what they wanted. Instead, they waited for it to come to them. That was why they ended up with what they got. It is amazing that the line between fantasy and reality is so thin. Fantasy and reality are often mistaken for one another because as part of human nature, it is the only way we can deal with disappointment.