Gender Roles, Femininity, and Family in The House on Mango Street

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 802 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 802|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

The House on Mango Street shows a year in the life of Esperanza, the main character, and how she grows as a person. One of the genres Sandra Cisneros, the author, writes in is called Bildungsroman. Throughout this story, the reader can experience how gender and being a woman can determine how they interact with certain people and how it affects their relationships. The themes presented in the novel are women and femininity, family, and friends. 

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Women were often portrayed in a certain way throughout the course of this novel. Her mother is a stereotypical image of what women were like; during this time women were nurturing, feminine, and domesticated. According to the vignette Hairs, “But my mother’s hair, my mother’s hair, like little rosettes, like little candy circles all curly and pretty because she pinned it in pincurls all day, sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you, holding you and you feel safe, is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring”. Esperanza’s neighbor is shown as the caretaker of the children while also being beautiful, which was a common role of women. Found in the vignette Louie, His Cousin, & His Other Cousin, “Louie’s girl cousin is older than us. She lives with Louie’s family her own family is in Puerto Rico. . .. She can’t come out – gotta babysit with Louie’s sisters”. Esperanza notices how important beauty is in her society and the power it holds however, she compares her intelligence instead. She knows that beauty doesn’t mean independence and therefore looks for other ways to gain power. Beauty, she believes, can help women escape from their current positions and offer more options. Found in the vignette Sire, “And then his girlfriend came. Lois I heard him call her. She is tiny and pretty and smells like baby’s skin. I. . . I saw her barefoot baby toenails all painted pale pale pink, like little pink seashells, and she smells pink like babies do”. 

Throughout The House on Mango Street, women often shared certain similar characteristics. After moving to her new home, the main character makes new friends. Esperanza feels like she is being restricted from having real friendships because of her responsibilities (her sister). The balloon symbolizes her ability to float away; the anchor keeps her weighted on the ground unable to reach new heights. Found in the vignette Boys & Girls, “Someday I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor”. She makes some real connections and makes real friends in her new neighborhood. Esperanza finally doesn’t look or feel isolated. According to Our Good Day, “Down, down Mango Street we go. Rachel, Lucy, me. Our new bicycle. Laughing the crooked ride back”. Her new location allows her to form connections to new people. Esperanza may not look like some of her family members however, they share specific traits. Although Esperanza and her great-grandmother never met, they have another attribute in common besides their name, their wild personality. Found in My Name, “My great-grandmother. I would’ve liked to have known her, a wild horse of a woman, so wild she wouldn’t marry”. After looking at two siblings who are physically similar, Esperanza compares herself to Nenny. She finds similarities that aren’t physical but are deeper and are more personality oriented. Cited in Laughter, “Nenny and I don’t look like sisters … not right away. Not the way you can tell with Rachel and Lucy who have the same fat popsicle lips like everybody else in their family. But me and Nenny, we are more alike than you would know. Our laughter for example”. Even though her friends don’t understand her point of view on a house, her sister does. This quote shows how despite not being close, Nenny understands Esperanza better than her friends do. Sourced from Laughter, “Look at that house, I said, it looks like Mexico. Rachel and Lucy look at me like I’m crazy, but before they can let out a laugh, Nenny says: Yes, that’s Mexico all right. That’s exactly what I was thinking exactly”. 

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Certain traits are shared in the Cordero family. The main character matures throughout the plot of the story. Bildungsroman is a genre that the author specializes in using in her writing. Gender plays an impactful role in The House on Mango Street. Each gender has a specific role in her community. The prominent themes are women and femininity, family, and friends. 

Works Cited

  1. Cisneros, S. (1991). The House on Mango Street. Vintage.
  2. Campbell, P. (1996). The House on Mango Street: Constructing Identity Through Feminism and Postcolonialism. MELUS, 21(4), 69-82. doi:10.2307/467851
  3. Stavans, I. (1993). Breaking the Traditional Mold: The Women's Movement in The House on Mango Street. MELUS, 18(2), 5-14. doi:10.2307/467545
  4. Sutliff Sanders, K. (2000). Narrative Voice and Intertextuality in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. Contemporary Literary Criticism, 147, 251-264.
  5. Kevane, B., & Wexler, L. M. (2003). The House on Mango Street: An Instructional Guide for Literature. Teacher Created Resources.
  6. Balderston, D. (2004). Constructing the Latina Self: Narrative Universalities in The House on Mango Street. Modern Language Notes, 119(4), 885-908. doi:10.1353/mln.2004.0073
  7. Brown, J. R. (2007). An Offering of Images: Gender and Language in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. MELUS, 32(3), 183-203. doi:10.1093/melus/32.3.183
  8. Torres, L. (2010). Resistance, Survival, and Hope: The House on Mango Street and the American Dream. Letras Femeninas, 36(2), 49-62.
  9. Lin, C. (2011). Conflicts of Space and Belonging in Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. MELUS, 36(3), 109-132. doi:10.1093/melus/36.3.109
  10. Pérez, L. C. (2019). Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street and Latina Testimonio. The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 6(2), 252-270. doi:10.1017/pli.2019.18
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Gender Roles, Femininity, And Family In The House On Mango Street. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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