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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 31: Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut and Papaya Juice on Tuesdays

Summary

Rafaela is a young woman married to a man who keeps her locked up when he goes out, because he is afraid she is so beautiful she’ll run away from him. She dreams of dancing, and asks Esperanza and her friends to buy her a coconut or papaya juice, which she retrieves with a rope she throws down from her window.

Notes

Rafaela, like many of the women in “Mango Street,” is forced to forget her own dreams because of her husband. Like Alicia, the girl who sees mice, she has many good characteristics--she seems intelligent, ambitious, and spirited--but each of these is countered by her dependence on her bullying husband. Thus, she becomes like a fairy tale, like Rapunzel, when she lowers a paper bag for the children to put sweet, flavorful drinks in. These drinks are clear symbols for the life Rafaela would like to have, and surely could have, if not for her husband. We are never told exactly why these women stay with their husbands or fathers, which seems to implicate them in their own misery, because we are left to assume that the reason they stay is simply that they cannot imagine living in any other way, despite their dreams. Their loyalty--or, sometimes, their fear-- prevents them from realizing their independence.


CHAPTER 32: Sally

Summary

Sally is a beautiful girl who wears perfect, Egyptian-looking makeup and has no girl friends, since she got into a fight with her best friend Cheryl. Now she has no one to giggle over boys with. Esperanza does not want to believe what the boys say about her, or that, like her mother says, for Sally to act so grown up is dangerous. Esperanza empathizes with Sally, who has to remove her makeup and change her clothes before she gets home, and can never go out. She wonders whether Sally would like to leave home forever. She says she understands that all Sally wants is “to love and to love and to love,” to “dream and dream,” and she doesn’t blame her.

Notes

Sally, like Marin, is a dreamy, overly mature girl who seems destined for trouble. Like Marin, her main problem seems to be the gap between what she wants to be and what her culture and family want for her. Esperanza admires her exotic appearance, and wants Sally to teach her how to dress and wear makeup. The entire chapter is written in a pleading, childlike tone, as Esperanza tries to understand and emulate Sally. Esperanza wants Sally’s maturity, but she doesn’t understand how complicated that maturity can be.

CHAPTER 33: Minerva Writes Poems

Summary

Minerva is only a little bit older than Esperanza, but she has two children, who she is raising alone since her husband left, just like Minerva’s father left her mother. Minerva and her husband fight and make up very frequently, and she comes to Esperanza’s house black and blue, and asks her what to do. She and Esperanza often read their poems to each other, and are friends, but Esperanza doesn’t know what to tell her.

Notes

Minerva’s situation serves as another cautionary tale for Esperanza, who, though she is her friend, refuses to get too close to her. When Minerva asks for her advice, she simply says, “There is nothing I can do.” Her emphasis on the “I,” like the emphasis she places on Minerva’s crying and praying, suggest that Esperanza believes Minerva could help herself, if she would only stop crying and praying and simply kick her unreliable husband out for good. This chapter has a singsong, rhyming quality that reinforces Minerva’s almost comically predictable life pattern: her husband leaves, she cries, he comes back and she accepts him, he leaves, she cries, etc.

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