The 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote was ratified 1920, yet today, almost 100 years later, women still face injustice in America. The House on Mango Street is a year in the life of Esperanza, a 12-year old Chicana (Mexican-American girl) and one of these such young women. It features her journey into adulthood and the discrimination and injustice she faces in order to become an independent woman. Cisneros uses a range of motifs to comment on this discrimination and imprisonment of women in The House on Mango Street.
In Cisneros’s view, women who grow up facing this injustice, like Rafaela, Mamacita, and Esperanza, must become stronger and stand up against the discrimination and imprisonment that all women face in our society today.
Rafaela, another resident of Mango Street, illustrates how women are imprisoned discriminated, as she is practically owned by her husband, and is imprisoned inside her house, like a beautiful caged bird. As Esperanza explains, “On Tuesdays Rafaela’s husband comes home late…And then 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” (78).
“She has no rights, no real choices of her own. Rafaela only “leans out the window and leans on her elbow and dreams” (79). Raffaela wants to go and see the world, to dance in the bars and really enjoy life, but instead, she is locked inside her house because she is too beautiful.
In the same way, Mamasita feels imprisoned in her house because she doesn’t speak English and feels like an outsider in America; she refuses to assimilate, as all she wants to do is go home to Mexico. This shows how women must stand up against the discrimination and imprisonment they face in a world made for the minds of men.
Esperanza herself is another vivid example of women growing up, facing injustice, and becoming stronger. Esperanza faces many forms of discrimination growing up, from Cathy, whose family is racist against Hispanics, to injustice based on her gender, like when she is assaulted and raped. Nevertheless, Esperanza overcomes these challenges, becoming a stronger woman than her ancestors ever were. Through this coming-of-age journey, Esperanza grows stronger, as she pledges one day “I have begun my own quiet war…I am the one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate” (89). Another example of discrimination is Alicia, whose mother died and is now responsible for caring for the house and children, even though she is currently busy with University. Young, smart Alicia is even more determined to graduate despite being expected to take over all the “feminine” duties; she doesn’t want to spend her life making tortillas. The culture on Mango Street defines these young women’s lives, as women are normally not allowed to have freedom, independence, or professional jobs, in extreme cases leading to the sexual abuse that Esperanza suffered. These powerful experiences that Esperanza and Alicia faced on Mango Street help them become stronger, and even more determined to escape to a better town.
To conclude, Cisneros uses a range of motifs to comment on the discrimination and imprisonment that women face, and how they must stand up for themselves and become stronger. She illustrates this through Rafaela, Mamasita, and Esperanza’s various challenges they face throughout maturity and adulthood. The House on Mango Street shows how women will face various obstacles growing up, but like Esperanza, we must become stronger and overcome these obstacles through hard work, and pure determination. We must all begin our oven quiet war for women all over the globe, and become stronger than ever before in our fight for equality.
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