The novel by Sandra Cisneros is a narration of young Latina girl and her struggle with accepting her identity. Written in 1984, the novel documents the challenges that Esperanza faces in her attempt to run away from the impoverished life that they live. The girl is particularly disappointed when her family’s promise of moving to a new house does not meet her expectations. The house is small and crumbling and located in a poor urban neighborhood in Mango Street. Eventually, she manages to run, albeit from a different problem: the problem of her sexuality. Throughout the challenges, Esperanza realizes that sexuality is not as she expected and she is determined to change the neighborhood for the better. The color red is used to show that Mango Street is a Buildungsroman through the development of Esperanza.
At the beginning of the book, Esperanza describes the house in which her parents have moved to using the color red. Her description of the house is emotionally driven by the fact that she was disappointed in the outcome. According to her, the house was small and not what she expected, least of all at a time when she wanted to run away from impoverishment. “It’s small and red with tight steps” (Cisneros, pp 4) is the description that Esperanza adopts for the new house. In the description, one can visibly notice that Esperanza is a budding story writer who is able to use symbolism to express feelings of certain situations. The color red is effective in painting the house as poorly constructed house and one that is too small for her. The color is dependent and goes to show that the house does not meet her needs.
Later in the book, as Esperanza approaches adolescence, she details her difficulties and despair in finding a true friend. The literary use of the color red is again symbolic of her state of being tied down. She writes of her anticipation to have a true friend in future that she can share her secrets with and who can understand her jokes. She then describes her current state as “a red balloon” (Cisneros, pp 9) that is tied to an anchor. In so doing, Esperanza communicates that she is floating in anticipation, waiting for a friend she can trust. The color red is used to describe the balloon that she is to show that she is alone and perhaps unlike other people who have best friends. According to her, she stands out as one without a friend.
Towards the end of the book Esperanza again displays her development as a storyteller by symbolically using color red to describe the friends that Sally left her with. She writes that she was “waiting by the red clowns” (Cisneros, pp 99) when Sally had left her even though she had wanted to spend time with her. The red clowns is a hidden meaning for the uncomfortable boys that went ahead to rape her at the carnival. By using the symbolism of color red in her writing, it is clear that her storytelling skills have developed further even in her adulthood. Moreover, the text shows her development as a woman who can handle her challenges and who is ready to take responsibility for her decisions – going to the carnival.
It is clear that the novel is a Buildungsroman as is evidenced by the three instances. The story tells of the development of Esperanza both in her physicality as a woman and as a storyteller. From the beginning, Esperanza is immature in person and her story telling skills are driven by emotions. Later on, she is more developed in both aspects and end up expressing herself better.
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage, 2013. Internet resource.
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