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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 13: There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do

Summary

Rosa Vargas’s husband left her, and she has too many kids, all of them disobedient. The children get into trouble so often that people give up trying to take care of them, and don’t react when they injure themselves--even when one of them “learn[s] to fly” and falls from high above to the ground.

Notes

Rosa Vargas’s life is typical of many women from the neighborhood: her situation is so difficult that everyone almost gives up, and when a young child either dies or is seriously injured--it is unclear which at the time--no one even looks up, according to Esperanza. Indeed, the way his fall is described (“like a sugar donut, just like a falling star”) has such a lack of gravity--it almost feels like a nursery rhyme--that the fall itself is all the more striking. The reader is unsure what has actually happened, and doesn’t know exactly how to feel: we know nothing about this child, and there are so many Vargases that he hardly seems significant. This is, perhaps, what Cisneros wants us to understand: the Vargas children, unprotected by their family and community, are far more prone to attack or accident, and more expendable, than any child should be.


Chapter 14: Alicia Who Sees Mice

Summary

Alicia is Esperanza’s friend. Her mother died and she has had to take her place as her father’s servant, cooking and cleaning all the time. But he is smart and ambitious, taking two trains and a bus to study at a University. She sees mice all the time, even though her father tells her they aren’t there. She is afraid of the mice--and her father.

Notes

Alicia is perhaps the opposite of Marin: her dreams are practical, and she is realizing her ambition. The images of mice, which appear in the corners of her eyes, are sinister, because they are unexplained, and their skittishness suggests Alicia’s own persistent cowering fear of her father.

CHAPTER 15: Darius and the Clouds

Summary

Esperanza mourns the lack of beauty around her, saying, “You can never have too much sky.” She says Darius, who usually says foolish things or nothing at all, said something wise: he pointed up to the sky and said that one of the pillowy clouds was God. When a younger child questioned him, he just repeated himself.

Notes

In discussing how little beauty there is to be found in her neighborhood, Esperanza exposes the beauty that lies hidden. Darius is usually stupid, but even he can say something profound. And even though there aren’t many flowers or butterflies where they live, all they have to do is look up and they can see God, in the simplest things.

CHAPTER 16: And Some More

Summary

Lucy, Rachel, Nenny and Esperanza talk about names. Esperanza tells them that Eskimos have thirty different names for snow. Rachel counters with a story about her cousin who has many names, in English and Spanish. They talk about what each cloud looks like, describing one like “your face when you wake up after falling asleep with all your clothes on.” Rachel and Lucy start teasing Esperanza about her puffy face, and the girls begin insulting each other, half-seriously.

Notes

The girls talk in two different dreamy, whimsical ways: they come up with creative insults for each other, and they discuss what (or who) different clouds look like. All of their talk is interspersed with lists of names, mostly common ones, that suggest what the girls’ reality consists of: the names around them and the names they give to things around them. The endless string of people’s names makes it seem as though the girls’ conversation is taking place within a crowd, and they are defining themselves within it.

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