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The quest for a belonging in life is something that everyone wants to achieve. Throughout our experiences, we discover new lessons that teach us about who we are in this society and what we strive to be in this life. With all these lessons that we learned, we connect the dots to figure out what belonging in society is. Each of us have a unique story in our lives that helps us discover this concept of belonging. In Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, we see Ezparanza’s discovery of belonging in her life as she grows up. Through a plethora of psychological encounters, these experiences teach Ezparanza about the dualities of belonging in society.
The first experience that we see in the book was when Ezparanza described the house on Mango Street for the first time. She hoped for a house that would be one that was not shared with other families or people who were not in her family. However, that does not seem to be the case when Ezparanza and her family moved to Mango Street. She brought up the fact that “the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it at all.” (Cisneros 4). The actual house that Ezparanza described left her with a huge sense of disappointment. She hoped for a house that was a traditional single-family house. Despite the fact that her parents told her that this was temporary, Ezparanza believed that she was not proud of the place where she calls home. She felt like she did not belong here in this house because of the physical condition of the house, but the other houses on Mango Street are in a similar fashion as the one Ezparanza and her family lived in.
When it comes to belonging in society, there are standards which we are exposed to no matter if we like them or not. One example is when Ezparanza wants a best friend that she can call her own. Ezparanza wants a best friend that she “can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without having to explain them” (Cisneros 9). Within the greater context, we can see that Ezparanza does not have a best friend yet, mainly due to how young her sister is at this current moment. We can also see the fact that her two brothers are best friends with each other, but not with the sisters. In this period of time, there were no such things as guys intermingling with girls with high intimacy. That is why the brothers sort of avoid their two sisters outside of the house. It was some sort of belonging in society, but not to the extent in which every person, no matter the gender, interacted with one another on such a level.
A person’s name can play such a role on a person’s psychology that affects their thought of belonging in society. In “My Name,” Ezparanza contemplated about her name because she was not as confident about her name as people with much simpler and better names than hers. Ezparanza brings up the fact that “at school they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth…But I am always Esperanza. I would like to baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real one, the one nobody sees” (Cisneros 11). We can see the fact that Ezparanza does not feel belonged because of the way other people pounced her name. The mispronunciation of Ezparanza’s name does pose a lot of insecurities since a lot of English speaking natives have trouble pouncing her name. The constant troubles of people trying to pronounce her name makes Ezparanza feel like she does not belong to society.
Having a job is one of the milestones in life which we discover even more about our belonging in society. That is what Ezparanza had when her Aunt Lala “had found a job for me at the Peter Pan Photo Finishers on North Broadway where she worked, and how old was I, and to show up tomorrow saying I was one year older, and that was that” (Cisneros 53-54). A part of belonging in a society is get a job, and that is what Ezparanza got for the very first time. What Ezparanza did at her job was very rudimentary. It did not get much pay, especially for people of color and females. The males predominantly were in higher positions than females. In those days, women and people of color were not paid as well, and that still holds true today. While Ezparanza got a job through her Aunt Lala and did not get much pay of it, having a job was having a sense of belonging in society.
Writing was something that Ezparanza discovers her belonging when she reads her work to her aunt. While her aunt really likes Ezparanza’s writing, her aunt tells Ezparanza that she “must keep writing. It will keep you free, and I said yes, but at that time I didn’t know what she meant” (Cisneros 61). Writing, according to the aunt, is something that a person is free of restrictions. While there are a lot of these so called rules we must follow in order to remain in order, writing can make a person feel as if (s)he belongs in society. No two persons write the same way and that holds true because each person has their own voice. What Ezparanza’s aunt told her made Ezparanza realize later on that she has a voice of her own, and it is seen throughout the later stages of growing up. This was when she starts to understand the meaning of her voice and it is especially important for her to belong in society.
Back in the days were gender roles was predominantly part of culture, we see this one character that Ezparanza looks at. In “Sally,” Ezparanza describes a character that stands out from societal norms and that person is Sally. Ezparanza talks about Sally as this girl who looks feminine based on her make-up, clothing, and especially her shoes. What is most important, however, is when Ezparanza talks about Sally when she brings up the fact that “all you wanted, all you wanted, Sally, was to love and to love and to love and to love, and no one could call that crazy” (Cisneros 83). All of this shows that no matter what life throws at Sally, she remains true to herself. People may disown her for not being in this society due to her personality portraying her true colors. Although people might say stuff that makes a person feel bad, Sally does not care because she does not want to fit into what society wants her to be. Instead, she wants to change all that by displaying herself and especially love towards one other. The feeling of love and being loved makes us feel belonged in society.
In “A Smart Cookie,” we hear about Ezparanza’s mother talking about herself from her younger years. We see the fact that she had the potential to become whatever she wanted to be in life, but instead chose to drop out of school because of poor-quality clothing. Ezparanza’s mother tells Ezparanza that “shame is a bad thing, you know. It keeps you down. You know why I quit school? Because I didn’t have nice clothes. No clothes, but I had brains” (Cisneros 91). Ezparanza’s mother felt like she regrets dropping out of school because of her clothes. That already made her mother feel insecure and the mother felt like she did not belong in society. While Ezparanza’s mother was already a smart person, she could not go far in life because of these insecurities that resulted in where she is today. This life lesson that her mother brings up teaches Ezparanza that being herself is the most important concept that she must learn in order to belong in society.
When we last looked at Sally, we heard about Sally through Ezparanza. Ezparanza described Sally as this image of what a girl should be in society. Sally is that same girl, but she is portrayed in a scenario that puts her in the realities of belonging in society in her current time. Ezparanza describes Sally now as a replacement for her father’s wife when her father “he just went crazy, he just forgot he was her father between the buckle and the belt. You’re not my daughter, you’re not my daughter. And then he broke into his hands” (Cisneros 93). The removal of Sally gives an impression that Sally had to play the role of wife because her father prevented her from going back to school. The societal norms of gender roles in Ezparanza’s time really plays a huge factor in the fact that Sally has to stay home and take care of the kids and do things that a housewife normally does, which says so much about the duality of belonging in society.
In “The Monkey Garden,” we see Ezparanza, Sally, and a bunch of other characters in an unusual place. This setting we see is a place where these people get to roam around freely. We get to see that especially when Ezparanza brings up the fact “that when the others ran, I wanted to run too, up and down and through the monkey garden, fast as the boys, not like Sally who screamed if she got her stockings muddy” (Cisneros 96). The concept of her actually wanting to do stuff without ever having anyone to criticize her for not being the normal girl was something we see at this stage of her childhood. She starts to discover more of what it means to belong in a place where you feel free in society. Not worrying about people looking down on her in this vignette, it seemed to push her discovery of belonging in society no matter where in the world she may be.
Facing a traumatic event can alter our psychology and views towards belonging in society. We see this in “Red Clowns” when Sally and Ezparanza were at the amusement park. It is here where Ezparanza faces a very terrifying moment that hurts her emotionally and psychologically when she “couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t do anything but cry. I don’t remember. It was dark. I don’t remember. I don’t remember. Please don’t make me tell at all” (Cisneros 100). When a person is raped, they do not tell anyone because they might feel that they will get hurt again by the same person who raped them. Just at a time when Ezparanza was hoping to lose her virginity to her potential husband, a guy she does not love nor know at all comes in to ruin all that. We can see the fact that Ezparanza was damaged psychologically from such a really traumatic event in this one day. As a result, this makes Ezparanza feel like she does not belong in society due to how powerless she was.
Home ownership is something everyone must have in society. We finally get to see Ezparanza happy and there is a reason why she is feeling this way. Ezparanza finally is at that point where she has “a house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after” (Cisneros 108). This house that Ezparanza describes is a house that she can call hers. The house Ezparanza has is not owned by all the stereotypes of home ownership. Typically, a man is the one to own a home because that was normalized for a long time. This house is actually owned by Ezparanza herself and it comes to show that home ownership is for everyone and not for a certain group of people. Ezparanza owning her own home breaks the stereotypes that a man is the main owner of the house. Due to this break in stereotype, Ezparanza shows that women can be like men in owning a home. With that said, it comes to show that Ezparanza feels like she belongs in society as a result of home ownership.
Once we leave a certain place we called home for a period of time, we look back upon the impacts that place has on us now that we moved on in life. Ezparanza has exactly that when she got out of Mango Street. She brings up the fact that while she has lived in several places, she remembers “Mango Street, sad red house, the house I belong but do not belong to. I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much. I write it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free” (Cisneros 109-110). No matter where Ezparanza lives, Mango Street seems to have left a memory and impact on her. From the people she encountered to the house on Mango Street itself, she felt like Mango Street has become a place where she has write for because she got out of the place where she spent a good portion of her life. She is finally free from Mango Street, but also in a way empathizes for the people who are stuck on that same street throughout their lives. In a sense, Ezparanza really discovers a true duality of belonging in the house on Mango Street.
Restrictions always seem to pose a threat to a lot of people. With the case of women in Mango Street, it is noted that they are stuck not only on this street, but also in their homes as well. Within the end of Ezparanza’s narrative, it is seen that “the feminization and personification of Mango Street symbolizes the entire group of women that hold back from conquering their ambitions” (Betz 20). We can see that women who are stuck on Mango Street are stuck there. By being stuck in one place, there is no chance for any woman to show their potentials. When Ezparanza left Mango Street, she noticed that other people, especially the women, cannot get out because of preconditions that prevented them from getting out. Also, being stuck in their homes is something women have to live through for their whole lives. This is because of gender roles. The husbands want their wives to stay home, cook the food, clean the dishes, and watch the kids. On the other hand, the husbands are able to get out of the house to have fun and also get some food for the woman to make for the family. Being stuck on Mango Street gives an impression that women who remain here do not know what it is like to belong in society as a whole and not isolated within this area.
In “Difference, Identity, and Sandra Cisneros’s ‘The House on Mango Street’ by Jayne Marek, she discusses these themes of difference and identity in The House on Mango Street. She brings up an important point about “Ezparanza’s development: desire for a satisfying home, questioning about personal identity and gender roles, and especially the search for a good friend who can provide acceptance and understanding” (Marek 179). All of these things presented here are what Ezparanza learned throughout growing up. In a country where females do not have all the things males do, Ezparanza sees her potential to do anything and what the real world is like. Despite moments where Ezparanza has her downfalls and resistance, we see that she prevails by the time we see her own her own house. This is the pinnacle of achievements that Ezparanza has because when she gets to this point in her life, she proved to us that nothing will stop her from having a true sense of belonging in society.
The dualities of belonging were an important lesson that Ezparanza discovered through plenty of life lessons. We saw that through a number of vignettes where certain events portrayed a sense of belonging compared to other events that do not give a person the sense of belonging. From the first time Ezparanza describe her family’s house on Mango Street, she was extremely disappointed because it did not come out to be. Then we saw her go through her job to losing her innocence without her consent and finally got her own home. Ezparanza has showed us that women can do anything and that women do deserve the same kinds of things that men have. We see this especially saw this when Hillary Clinton became the first woman to win the democratic nomination for the United States presidency in the 2016 election cycle, but then she lost to our current President of the United States. As we can see in both Ezparanza’s case, we can definitely see the dualities of belonging with her story, and the dualities of belonging still linger on today.
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