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Free Study Guide-The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros-Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 7: Laughter

Summary

Esperanza describes how similar she is to her sister Nenny-- not in obvious ways, like their facial features, but how alike their laughs are, for example. They see a house that they both agree looks like Mexico in some way. They can’t explain how, and no one but the two sisters understand it.

Notes

Esperanza reveals her close bond with Nenny in this chapter, a bond that feels all the stronger because Rachel and Lucy, their closest friends outside the family, don’t understand it. It seems, as well, that part of the sisters’ bond is their heritage: they understand what Mexico is (that house) in a unique way.


CHAPTER 8: Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold

Summary

Esperanza describes a junk store in her neighborhood that she and Nenny visit sometimes. It is dirty and a little mysterious (the owner will only turn on the lights for serious shoppers, and the aisles are narrow and maze-like). One day the owner shows them a music box: not a pretty little toy with a ballerina on top, but a wooden box, and when he winds it up it makes beautiful and mysterious music, “like if you were running your fingers across the teeth of a metal comb.” Esperanza is so moved she turns away, and Nenny doesn’t understand how special it is and tries to buy it, but the man tells them it isn’t for sale.

Notes

Cisneros draws a parallel between Esperanza and Gil: both are deeply attuned to beauty, even in their impoverished surroundings. Their understanding of that beauty is unspoken, however, and even Esperanza does not, perhaps, understand it fully. She says she turns away so that Nenny will not see how stupid she is--she does not explain the nature of her feelings or even her expression of them. Examples of Esperanza’s heightened sense of awe appear often throughout the book, in chapters like “Laughter” and “Darius and the Clouds.”

CHAPTER 9: Meme Ortiz

Summary

Meme Ortiz, whose real name is Juan, lives with his mother in the house Cathy left behind when she moved away. Meme has a sheepdog, and the dog and his owner are as clumsy and strange as the house they live in, which was built by Cathy’s father and has slanted, crooked floors and stairs. In the backyard is the tall thick tree that the neighborhood kids used for the “First Annual Tarzan Jumping Contest,” which Meme won--breaking both his arms.

Notes

Esperanza highlights the poverty and sadness of her neighborhood in this chapter. She describes a backyard that is “mostly dirt,” and black-tarred roofs. And even though Cathy’s father supposedly built the house Meme now lives in crooked on purpose, Esperanza seems to feel it is somehow pathetic, describing the steps as “all lopsided and jutting like crooked teeth.” Meme himself is also pitiful: he is willing to break both his arms to win the Tarzan contest, which suggests extreme recklessness or clumsiness.

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