Emma Dean

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Mr. Bigelow
English 10
6 October 2014
Character change is one of the most crucial factors in creating not just a well-written
book, but also a well-written life. Everybody undergoes some sort of character development,
usually due to important experiences, conflicts, or realizations. Throughout their life, people
learn to find their true identities, and these identities shape not just who they are, but what
decisions they make. An excellent example of character growth is seen in Sandra Cisneros’s The
House on Mango Street, primarily through the main character Esperanza. Over the course of the
book, Esperanza’s outlook on life is matured, and her challenging experiences shed light on the
iniquity of Mango Street and the path she herself must take to rise beyond its limitations.
One of the most significant transformations in Esperanza was how she finally made the
decision to take charge of her own fate. Toward the end of the book, Esperanza announces that
“One day I will say goodbye to Mango Street. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever”
(110). Through this realization, Esperanza abandons the child in her who complains and merely
hopes, like the girl she was at the beginning of the novel: “The house on Mango Street is ours,
and we don’t have to pay rent to anybody, or share the yard with the people…But even so, it’s
not the house we’d thought we’d get” (3). Instead, she decides to use her determination and
ambition to achieve her dreams. Cisneros sends a powerful message, convincing her readers that
in the end, only each person can change his/her own future, and the best way to do so, is to try,
no matter how hopeless the situation may seem.

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Over the course of the book, Esperanza learns the important lesson that men will not help
her escape, but will make her even more trapped instead. Growing up, Esperanza witnesses all
sorts of women being oppressed by men, ranging from her neighbors, her grandma, to her closest
friends. Esperanza listens to the daydreams of her neighbor Marin, who is constantly “waiting for
a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life” (27). She even begins to experiment with
her own sexuality, trying on seductive shoes and enjoying the attention men give her. However,
at the end of the day, Esperanza remarks, “We are tired of being beautiful…One Tuesday her
mother, who is very clean, throws (the shoes) away. But no one complains” (42). Esperanza is
aware that the sort of attention she was attracting was impure and even dangerous. Her instincts
are further confirmed after she witnesses the trap of marriage through her friend Sally. Sally “sits
at home because she is afraid to go outside without (her husband’s) permission” (102).
Esperanza’s new realization is crucial to the book, not only as it gives readers a glimpse of the
extreme sexism that still exists today, but also because it shows how Esperanza pities Sally’s
new lifestyle and is choosing not to conform to the traditional and limiting path that Sally
succumbs to.
Last, but not least, Esperanza’s relationship with Mango Street and the people in it also
undergoes major changes. When Esperanza first moved to Mango Street, her main concern was
leaving it and finding a “real home”. However, towards the end of the book, Esperanza
encounters the Three Sisters, who tell her that “You will always be Mango Street. You can’t
erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are” (105). Even though Esperanza’s
experiences in Mango Street may not have always been pleasant, she knows that those
experiences are what make her the strong person she is now. Furthermore, Esperanza begins

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viewing the people of Mango Street differently. They form an understanding based on their
similar broken-down lifestyles, and through it, they become a real community. Esperanza thinks
about leaving Mango Street, but is reminded of her neighbors and friends and concludes that,
“They will not know I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind. For the ones
who cannot out” (110). Cisneros shows a major transformation in how Esperanza sees the people
of Mango Street. They are no longer an embarrassment and a reminder of her poverty, but
instead, they become a part of her that she accepts and will fight for.
In conclusion, Esperanza does indeed grow and develop as a person, and in the end, these
changes are what help her become strong enough to achieve her dream and find happiness.
Esperanza learns to be in charge of her own future instead of relying on men as an escape like
many women of Mango Street do. The most important lesson Esperanza learns however is to
accept Mango Street and its inhabitants as a part of her identity and not to be ashamed of it, but
instead use it as fuel for accomplishing her goals. Sandra Cisneros’s House On Mango Street is
an astounding piece that provides hope and strength for all the trapped people in the world by
demonstrating that change is possible, in both your character and your life.