Gender Roles in "The House On Mango Street"


According to Chief Joseph, ‘’The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it’’ (Joseph, 1879). In fact, all men are the children of a single mother. She is mother nature. Mother nature embraces all of the men and she gives them equal rights. It is the men who create discrimination and inequality in the world. These are the production of men. When human beings first come into the world, they are not born with the consciousness of discrimination and inequality.

They learn these notions later. In this day and age, there are racial, gender, religious, and color discriminations in many parts of the world. These are made by a human being to another human being. However, a human being is no different from other human beings. The House on Mango Street written by Sandra Cisneros focuses on racial and gender discrimination. Sandra Cisneros is a poet, novelist, and essayist. She was born in Chicago in 1954.

She is the pioneer of Chicana literature. While Cisneros was writing her books, she was inspired by her personal life’s experiences. Because she is a Mexican-American and she experienced both cultures. The House on Mango Street is also an autobiographical novel.

The novel was first published in 1984. It is a Bildungsroman and consists of the brief chapters about a Chicana girl named Esperanza Cordero. Esperanza moves with her family into a house on Mango Street. But, she does not imagine this house. Because the house is uncomfortable, small, old, and devastated.

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However, she does not complain and she wants a house belonging to just her. Because she wants to escape from Mango Street. Esperanza experiences over a year of living in that house. Esperanza matures during the year sexually and emotionally. The novel also consists the stories of many of her neighbors, giving a full image of the neighborhood and showing the many possible choices Esperanza may follow in the future. Esperanza and her surroundings are subjected to discrimination both racially and sexually in the novel. In the House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros emphasizes racial discrimination in terms of Chicano/a and gender discrimination based on the traditional roles and social conditions of women who are hurt by their father and are suppressed by their husbands in the patriarchal world.

First body paragraph: The Notion of Chicano/a

Chicano is an identity of Mexican descent born in the United States. The male form is called Chicano and the female form is called Chicana. The Chicano term became popular by Mexican Americans as a symbol of pride and empowerment in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s. The Chicano society is exposed to oppression and discrimination of American society. Even though this term was considered as a derogatory, the Chicano used it to empower themselves. Chicano Movement in the 1960s is called the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement or El Movimiento. The purpose of this movement is to challenge the stereotypes about Mexican culture and heritage. They existed in America. This movement focuses on ethnic conflict. The consciousness of ‘’Brown pride’’, ‘’Chicano power’’, and ‘’Chicanismo’’ are raised through the Chicano Movement. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘’The irony, however, is that the Southwest region of the United States was once part of Mexico; the dominant sentiment in the community is that “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” (Gallardo, 2017). The Unites States discriminates against Mexican Americans. They feel lonely and discomfort, and they do not feel like their own home. This discrimination still continues today. The Chicano/as have difficulty in poverty, violence, poor health care, and discrimination in schools by the United States.

Chicana is a Mexican American female. Moreover, Chicana has a feminist implication. It created by Mexican American female activists. Chicana women want to accomplish equality among the sexes (Luna, 2010). Chicana women are oppressed by not the only the United States, but also their own society. Like all other women in the world, they are suppressed by their husbands, father, and patriarchal society. Their goal is to increase consciousness of women’s rights in Chicano/a society. Chicanas are expected to be obedient and submissive, but they are trying to have a voice with the Chicana Feminism.

Sandra Cisneros is also a pioneer of Chicano/a literature. She focuses on Chicano/a identity as racial and gender in her book ‘’The House on Mango Street’’. Moreover, Cisneros devotes this novel to women. The main character Esperanza in the novel is also a Mexican American young girl. Esperenza and her surroundings are exposed to racial and gender discrimination. In terms of race, the other people in the novel do not like Esperenza and her Chicano/a surrounding. People’s behaviors make them feel lonely and isolated. In terms of gender, the Chicana women in the book are oppressed by their father, husband, and patriarchal society.

Second Body Paragraph: Gender Discrimination

A gender stereotype is a judgment and prejudice about men or women. The stereotypes are widely accepted in the society. The gender stereotypes are not equal, and fair. Although they are not completely true, they continue to be perceived by people. The people assume that women are emotional, submissive, polite, obedient, weak, thin, and graceful, and men are aggressive, dominant, muscular, strong, and self-confident. Furthermore, women are expected to take care of children and housework. The people have the stereotype that women should create such an atmosphere that the husbands feel relax and comfortable in the house. As to men, they deal with scientific works, and they take care of their house’s finance and repairs. They show that man is superior to woman. In fact, these stereotypes are originated from the patriarchal society. It means a male-dominated society. In addition, this concept is called Machismo. However, machismo is quite problematic. Because it regards women as second-class citizens. According to Veronica Lira Ortiz, ‘’ The latest set of data from the National Survey on Occupation and Employment showed that only 2 out of 10 engineers in Mexico are women.’’ (Ortiz, 2018). It does not give women any rights or opportunities in school, politics, work and all areas of life. While the place of man is getting more dominant, the place of women is decreasing day by day in society. These facts still continue in nowadays. In The House on Mango Street, this machismo concept and gender stereotypes are quite dominant. There are lots of women characters who are exposed to gender discrimination in the novel. These women yield to the male authority and the patriarchal society. Furthermore, these characters surrender to these oppressions by consent.

However, the protagonist, Esperanza Cordero, wants to escape this common fate of her surroundings. There are seventeen chapters about the gender discrimination in the book. From the novel, ‘’The boys and the girls live in separate worlds. The boys in their universe and we in ours’’ (Cisneros, 1984, s. 47). Man is superior to the woman. The woman is regarded as inferior in society. Moreover, Esperanza’s brothers talk to her and Nenny in the house. However, the brothers must not be seen talking to girls outside. Talking to girls is regarded as shame by men. Also, Esperanza accepts the separate worlds of the genders in this quotation. Because society has created such a nonsence perception by men. Another gender discrimination section from the book, ‘’ If I give you a dollar will you kiss me?’’ (Cisneros, 1984, s. 84). In this quotation, Esperanza, Nenny, Rachel, and Lucy are trying shoes. According to Cosby (2014), shoes are reference to sexuality. A boy offers a dollar to Rachel for kissing. So, the women are seen as a sex object and material thing in the patriarchal society. He thinks that he can kiss her for money. This can be offered so easily. Therefore, it is possible to see that men can establish their power over women easily. From the section ‘’My Name’’, ‘’But I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don’t like their women strong’’ (Cisneros, 1984, s. 49). Esperanza’s name and her grandmother’s name are the same.

According to the Chinese calendar, they born in the year of the horse. To born as a female in the year of the horse is seen as bad luck. The reason for this, Chinese like Mexicans, do not want women to be strong. Because men should be more powerful than women. Women are inferior every time. There is no equality between males and females. In the same section, Esperanza talks about her grandmother here. She is a free soul like a wild horse. However, she was forced to marry. She never forgives her husband. During her whole life, she looks outside and she is quite sad. According to Faruk Kalay, ‘’ Her attitude – sitting on her elbow and looking out of the window– symbolizes the acquiesces of the destiny and men’s superiority’’ (Kalay, 2013). Because the grandmother is forced to marry, she can not be all the things she wants to be. She is suppressed by her husband. The grandmother lives in a cage and she has to yield to their destiny. Although Esperanza and her grandmother are namesakes, Esperanza does not want to share the same destiny like her grandmother. In the section The Earl of Tennessee, ‘’Whenever she arrives, he holds her tight by the crook of the arm. They walk fast into the apartment, lock the door behind them and never stay long’’ (Cisneros, 1984, s. 121).

Earl can do everything with lots of women, and nobody can judge him for his actions. He is violent and aggressive to women. This violence is regarded as normal things by the people and he can not be judged. The women have not right to speak in society. In the chapter Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays, ‘’Rafaela, who is still young but getting old from leaning out the window so much, gets locked indoors because her husband is afraid Rafaela will run away since she is too beautiful to look at’’ (Cisneros, 1984, s. 131). The concept of machismo is seen easily here. Because Rafela, she is Esperanza’ another neighbor, is quite beautiful and young, her husband locks her into the apartment and he is afraid Rafela escape. The husband behaves as if she has no heart and emotion and she is a material object. He thinks that she is his goods. In the section What Sally Said, ‘’ He never hits me hard. But Sally doesn’t tell about that time he hit her with his hands just like a dog, she said, like if I was an animal’’(Cisneros, 1984, s. 145). Sally’s father hits her. Because he is afraid of her escape to a man like his other daughters. Sally is suppressed by her father and she can not challenge this oppression. She wants to escape from this suppression and at the same time, she can not do this due to the oppressive father.

From another chapter Linoleum Roses, ‘’ She is happy, except sometimes her husband gets angry. Except he won’t let her talk on the telephone. And he doesn’t like her friends, so nobody gets to visit her unless he is working’’ (Cisneros, 1984, s. 155-156). In this chapter, Sally gets married at a very young age. She supposes that she is happy with her husband. However, it is a lie. Her life is like a cage. Because she just escapes from her oppressive father. But then, she is subdued by other authorized figures. The husband gives her money, but at the same time, he limits her freedom. He behaves her as if she is not a human, but material things belonging to him. He can do what he wants.

It is possible to see the full of trapped women in the novel. These women are suppressed by their fathers or their husbands. The women are subjected to male authority. They are seen as a second-class citizen. Most of the women yield to this oppression and they are like a traditional Chicana woman. They want to break the boundaries and limitations, but they can not do it. That’s why they always have a ‘’I wish’’ word in their hearts bitterly. Esperanza never wants to be a woman like her mother, her grandmother, her friends, and her neighbors. She wants a house belonging to just herself, not a father or a husband. At last, she wants to escape from Mango Street to help other women who are still oppressed.

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Gender Roles in "The House On Mango Street". (2020, Oct 02). Retrieved from

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