Esperanza’s teachers and classmates don’t pronounce her name correctly; it’s as if her pronouncing her name hurts their mouths. She’s unhappy that her name cannot be shortened for the benefit of the majority. She is thankful that her sister Magdalena’s name can be shortened into ‘Nenny’, which is easier to pronounce. The third inequality is the gender based discrimination she experiences, and is likely to experience as she grows older, as a female, at the hands of men, including the members of her own community.
She sees this discrimination happening to other women and girls and experiences it herself. Her brothers want to be seen speaking to her or to Nenny outside the home. As a poor, minority community female, she is triply an easy target for sexual abuse. An elderly Asian man makes her kiss him, she gets raped by group of boys, she receives the sexual attentions of a lot of adult men (including her own Uncle Nacho), which she does not always find unpleasant. Esperanza sees women stuck in abusive relationships. Some, like her mother, could have gotten an education and had a career but could not do so because of their poverty or the obligations of their family and their culture.
Esperanza wishes to escape this cycle of poverty and patriarchy. She longs for a house of her own, a detached home that is not a flat or a part of an apartment complex. A house with more than one floor with stairways with running water and working plumbing, where everyone won’t have to share a single toilet. She had hoped that the Mango Street house would be that house but it isn’t. When she wants desperately to move away the almost magical figures of the three sister who call each other ‘comrade’ appear, they advice her to keep writing because through her writing she will be able to leave Mango Street behind, but they also tell her not to forget Mango Street and to come back for the people she left behind and the ones that do not have the talents to escape their poverty. The message here is that success and self achievement does not have to come at the cost of the beautiful ties of family and community, one need not completely abandon the collectivist culture of the Hispanic community to find success in the individualistic American society. In ‘Bums in the Attic’ Esperanza vows that she will not be like the self centered rich people for whom her father works, but will care for the poor by keeping ‘bums in her attic ‘.
Esperanza’s self image is inexorably tied to her opinion of what other people think of her. The happy moments of the story are those where Esperanza is engaged in something where either her mind is not focused on what other people think. Or she thinks that other people have a good opinion of her.
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