Chelce Hessler Studies in Ethnic Literature Winter 2014 Short Essay 1 2014.01.


When cultures converge they create something greater than the sum of their parts, giving rise to a new set of values and mores unique to the desires and challenges of the members of the newly formed society. This metamorphic, sometimes painful process of acclamation and identification is the backbone of “The House on Mango Street.” Esperanza’s stories center around the people in her Chicago neighborhood seeking to find their place amidst the haze of assimilation. Their attempts to integrate their inherited Mexican-American values such as pride in succeeding at achieving the “American Dream” (and, conversely, shame in being unable to do so) and community as a means of cultural comfort and endurance serve as the lens through which the reader comes to know some of their greatest social and personal hardships. One of the first things Esperanza says about the house on Mango Street is that “it’s not the house we’d thought we’d get”

the one nobody sees” (11). but rather in a sense of shame for failing to acquire what other people have deemed proper. “a name more like the real me. to her and many other first-generation citizens. but it’s not until she is seen talking to a third party about the house that the reader is able to begin to see why. I nodded” (10). There. presumably belonging to families she might deem as “normal. causing her to wish for a new name. to prove that she is somehow worthy before she believes that people will even begin to really consider her as a human being at all. It becomes clear that her disillusionment with Mango Street is rooted not in a desire for materialistic comforts. a name that her non-Latino peers can only manage to pronounce in a way that is foreign and harsh. . For Esperanza.(Cisernos 9). I lived there. With similar dissatisfaction. become the tangible markers of one’s success in pursuing the “American Dream.” Her disappointment with her family’s own home is palpable. “You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing.” an enchanting and often elusive reality that Esperanza deeply aspires to embody. These symbols of social propriety such as domestic “normalcy” and acceptable American identity. Esperanza ruminates on her name. She talks about houses she has seen on television. there is a pressure to overcome obstacles and stereotypes.

Sadly. It is not until she does finally leave that that she is able to truly realize her . abandoning their heritage. there is a certain level of innate community that allows for a more comfortable dualism between the country of origin and the new land. is a community of people who have permanently settled together and in doing so. for much of the novel Esperanza seems to be instilled with the notion that she must somehow transcend her Mexican heritage to genuinely become American. as Esperanza says “All brown all around. particularly in major cities such as Chicago. in her mind. in fictive kinship. particularly those who have spent the majority of their life in their native country. ultimately stemming from passion for one’s own indigenous culture. however. Among immigrants. There is a comfort in commonality. including both literally and symbolically leaving Mango Street. we are safe” (17). This fear. manifests in the congregation of communities consisting of immigrants with similar ethnic backgrounds. Aside from the implications of racial prejudice that are inherent to this idea.The want to integrate oneself so wholly into American culture is not universally shared. exhausted their opportunities for achieving Americanism. she becomes fixated on doing what she must to fulfill her vision of success. there is a persistent anxiety that future generations will forget their roots. which. As such.

. inherent value as a formative a part of a burgeoning rich new culture as Mexican-Americans.neighborhood’s indispensable.

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