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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 24: Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water

Summary

Esperanza visits Elenita, a “witch woman” who lives in her neighborhood, to get her fortune told. Elenita’s house is cluttered, with children and dirty dishes everywhere, and lots of prayer candles. Esperanza has been there before, and knows what to do. She puts a glass of water on the table and Elenita asks her what she sees in it, whether she feels the cold of spiritual presence. She doesn’t see or feel anything, but lies and says she does. She is there to find out whether there is a house in her future. Elenita tells her she sees a home in the heart, and Esperanza is disappointed. She wants a new, nice, real house. “A new house, a house made of heart,” Elenita tells her, but Esperanza doesn’t get it. She gives Elenita five dollars and leaves.

Notes

Esperanza’s description of Elenita reveals aspects of both their characters. Elenita seems to have real power: she understands the “home in the heart” Esperanza is making for herself through her writing and her general thoughtfulness and independence. Yet she also does not seem completely genuine: she lights a candle for Esperanza for five dollars, and works out of her house while her children watch cartoons in the background. Esperanza, for her part, both believes in witchcraft and is very skeptical of it as well. She notices how dirty Elenita’s house is, and seems to find it strange that her fortune is read in a beer mug, but she believes, for example, that rubbing a cold egg on your face will cure a headache.


CHAPTER 25: Geraldo No Last Name

Summary

Marin meets a young man at one of the many dances she goes to. His name is Geraldo, and he gets hit by a car that night. Marin is questioned over and over, but all she can say is that his name is Geraldo and he works in a restaurant. He has no other identification. She feels bad and goes with him to the hospital, and disembodied voices--it’s unclear who they belong to--make comments like, “What does it matter?” and “What difference does it make?”

Notes

This chapter has a scope that is lacking, at least on the surface, in the other chapters. It is certainly not about Esperanza, as most other chapters are, but to say that it is about Geraldo and Marin would be limiting. It is about the experience of Mexican immigrants. Geraldo speaks no English, attends dances around Chicago, and carries with him absolutely no identification. No one else at the dance knows him. No one from Mexico will know what happened to him. And Esperanza, bitterly, uses these facts to speak for the police, for people who don’t understand Geraldo’s experience. Because he has no known last name, she imagines, people see him as nameless: “just another wetback.” The disembodied voices Cisneros uses to represent these comments are all the more striking because they don’t belong to anyone. Of course, Esperanza views him as much more than a nameless Mexican: she sees him as a representative of the entire Mexican immigrant culture. This, perhaps, is why Marin cared enough to stay with him at the hospital.

CHAPTER 26: Edna’s Ruthie

Summary

Esperanza describes Ruthie. She is the adult daughter of Edna, who owns a nearby building and is always evicting people. Ruthie, unlike Edna, “likes to play.” She wears mismatched socks and laughs to herself, whistles expertly, and loves candy. But she feels uncomfortable in stores, and is very dependent on her mother. She says that she is married and that her husband will come that weekend to take her home, but he never comes, and Esperanza doesn’t understand why Ruthie lives on Mango Street if she doesn’t have to. She loves books, and has her own sense of poetry. When Esperanza memorizes and recites “The Walrus and the Carpenter” just for her, Ruthie says nothing for some time, then finally tells her, “You have the most beautiful teeth I have ever seen.”

Notes

The difference between what Esperanza knows and what the reader knows in this chapter is significant. Clearly, Ruthie is a disturbed woman who lives with her mother because she has to for one reason or another. Esperanza finds certain things about her odd, but doesn’t really question her friend. She, like the rest of the children, simply enjoys her company. Thus, the chapter is tinged with sadness, because while to Esperanza Ruthie is just a fun, sweet, friendly woman, to the reader, these qualities make Ruthie’s problems all the more lamentable.

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