Although the novel does not follow a traditional chronological pattern, a story emerges, nevertheless, of Esperanza’s search to discover the meaning of her life and her personal identity. The novel begins when the Cordero family moves into a new house, the first they have ever owned, on Mango Street in the Latino section of Chicago. Esperanza is disappointed by the “small and red” house “with tight steps in front and bricks crumbling in places” (5). It is not at all the dream-house her parents had always talked about, nor is it the house on a hill that Esperanza vows to one day own for herself. Despite its location in a rough neighborhood and difficult lifestyle, Mango Street is the place with which she identifies at this time in her life.
While growing up on Mango Street, Esperanza is not only ashamed of her home, but is also uncomfortable with her outside appearance, which she feels does not convey the true personality hidden insider her. “I am an ugly daughter,” she says. “I am the one nobody comes for” (109). She feels she can relate to the four skinny trees outside her window. “Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine” (93).
Just as the trees survive under a harsh environment, Esperanza finds difficulty in accepting the neighborhood in which she lives. She is very self-conscious about her name, whose mispronunciation by teachers and peers at school sounds ugly to her ears. She struggles with jealousy of her younger sister Nenny and cynically says that she “has pretty eyes and it’s easy to talk…if you are pretty” (109). Ashamed of most everything she identifies with, Esperanza is maturing with a very low perception of herself.
She is not content with her home and surroundings, and cannot be until she is happy with her own character. The neighborhood is not exactly a pretty place as Esperanza describes it. She says, “here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful” (39). In the one year of Esperanza’s life that this book covers, she is raped, abused, and sees the death of the only person who would listen to her poetry- “Her name was Aunt Lupe and she was beautiful like her mother” (70). Her discontent with the neighborhood surrounding the house on Mango Street and the rough times that she experienced caused her to want to move away from the home.
“One day I will pack my bags and say goodbye to Mango. I am too strong for her to keep me here forever. One day I will go away” (134). Her determination is a depiction of her strong personality.
As she searches, her character is in the process of forming into one that is strong-willed with a passion to succeed. In a way, all people are like Esperanza. In the introduction, Cisneros writes, “You cannot forget who you are” (xx), “you, the reader are Esperanza” (xix). Many people are discontented with what they have or where they live, or so they believe.
They, in fact, are unhappy with who they are inside, unhappy with the things they identify with. A home is not just a simple building with walls and a roof; it .