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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 34: Bums in the Attic

Summary

Esperanza has stopped going along on weekends when her family drives by the big houses her father works at, staring admiringly. She feels ashamed of their obvious envy, though she does not let her family know this. She is sick of being jealous, and of listening to her mother say, “When we win the lottery...” She is determined to get her own house, and be welcoming to less fortunate people---unlike the people her father works for. She says she will happily invite bums to live in her attic.

Notes

Esperanza has matured enough that she realizes dreams alone do not accomplish anything. It is telling that she does not believe that once she becomes rich she will be a different person; rather, she will purposely try to hold on to parts of her background and personality. The simplicity with which the chapter is told reflects her strong views: when people ask her what those noises are in the attic, she says she will tell them, “’Bums,’ and I’ll be happy.”


CHAPTER 35: Beautiful and Cruel

Summary

Esperanza’s mother reassures her that one day her clothes will stay clean and she will look neater. Esperanza is not so sure she wants this, however. She does not want to be docile and pretty; she wants to be “beautiful and cruel,” using her sexuality to control men, like a woman from the movies.

Notes

Esperanza’s need for independence has become very keen. She does not want to take care of anyone. She is wary of men because of the way they control the women around her, but she also wants to be like them because of their power. The fact that she wants to be like a woman in the movies, with red lips, however, alerts the reader to Esperanza’s vulnerability and remaining fear. She does not want a loving, equal relationship with a man--she wants to control them the way they control her and her friends.


CHAPTER 36: A Smart Cookie

Summary

Esperanza’s mother tells her to stay in school, so that she can be independent and realize her ambitions. Her mother tells her that she herself left school young because she was ashamed of her shabby clothing. Disgusted with herself now, she urges Esperanza not to make the same mistake.

Notes

Mrs. Cordero’s intelligence is counterbalanced by Esperanza’s own ideas of her mother--as a woman who cannot even take the train downtown alone. Her mother’s present situation reinforces her advice: she has clearly fallen short of her potential. Her strong words and thoughtful speeches make this fact even more unfortunate. The reader experiences Esperanza’s dismay at this woman, who can sing “with lungs powerful as morning glories,” making oatmeal for her family.

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