Tuesday, August 3, 2010

25. "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Print.
110 pages
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love

A professor of mine once taught me that I can’t psychoanalyze characters in a novel the way I might a friend, or family member, or even myself. I can’t try to guess at what is going on in their heads or predict what they might do in a different situation.

“All you have are words on a page,” she told me.

“You have to enter into a relationship with each book you read, but all you really have are words on a page,” she emphasized over and over again in class.

Nothing held truer for me as I read Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street. The House on Mango Street is written in snapshots. Each chapter gives readers a glimpse into a different part of the narrator’s (Esperanza's) life. Each very short chapter is somehow connected to the others, though there are no clear transitions between them. Readers must be quite conscious sometimes to make the connections.

The House on Mango Street is about Esperanza’s process of figuring out where she belongs in the world. Esperanza is a young teenage girl and she doesn’t feel at home on Mango Street. She doesn’t like her house which could be symbolic for the way she feels lost in other parts of her world. Cisneros provides delicate character sketches and once the sketches are combined, one can understand Esperanza’s community a little more clearly.

I finished the book but my desire to know Esperanza wasn't fulfilled. She was always just beyond my reach. The snapshots weren’t enough for me. I wanted to really get to know this character beyond glimpses here and there. I wanted to understand her in ways other than through how other characters reflected her. I wanted more but all I had to work with were words on a page. Esperanza remains a mystery to me, for whatever reason.

This doesn’t necessarily detract from the quality of writing in this novel. Cisneros uses beautiful descriptions and imagery. I enjoyed it very much despite Esperanza’s ability to sneak away from me. It was certainly worth the read.

4 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: DONATED TO A LIBRARY

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