House on Mango Street Term Paper

Total Length: 2291 words ( 8 double-spaced pages)

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Thus, although she is not aware as such of her position in society, she realizes however that the house they moved to does not correspond to what her family had been dreaming about. The small and crammed house offers almost as little space as the other places they lived in. When describing the small house, the author introduces the single metaphor in the speech of the child narrator, saying that the windows were so small that one would think "they're holding their breath":

But the house on Mango Street it's not the way they told it at all. it's small and red with tight steps in front and windows so small you'd think they were holding their breath."

The metaphor is very significant as it highlights the main theme of the story: the interplay between the personal space and the space of the others, or the relation between the self and society. Owning a house as such is not sufficient, since identity and the personal space the family wanted to reserve have had almost nothing to gain. The windows of the house can't "breathe" because they lack the space-this metaphor renders almost a claustrophobic feeling of the self that is suffocated by the world around its, by the otherness, and by the social system that entraps it ascribing it another identity than the one desired. This is why the house on Mango Street is not the house the girl wished for, since the space one has to oneself is still limited.

The way the space of the others or the social space intrudes on the personal one is made clear by the little girl in her current repetitions about the way in which everyone has to share everything. The house, for example has no yard, instead in front there are the elms that the city planted- therefore foreign elements-, the house has only one bathroom that they all have to share, just as they shared them with the neighbors in the other places, and the bedrooms need to be shared too:

There is no front yard, only four little elms the city planted by the curb. [...] Everybody has to share a bedroom- Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny. "

The discontent is not with the sharing of space as such, but with the influence and the sway society holds on the individual.
The last paragraph of the story emphasizes this idea and reveals an even more developed sense of identity and awareness in the girl. She remembers the encounter she had with one of the nuns in her school, while she was still living in Loomis Street, and the feeling she had when she had to point to the place she lived in as being her home:

You live there?' There. I had to look to where she pointed- the third floor, the painting peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows, so we wouldn't fall out. You live there! The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there. I nodded."

Here, the ideas of space and social identity really converge: the simple phrasing of the girl, "I live there," emphasizes the relationship between the place she lives in and her place in society, and consequently her identity.

The last paragraph, where the girl reproduces her parents' assurance that the house on Mango Street is only a temporary residence for them seems to bring the story full circle and complete the first sentence:

knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn't it. The house on Mango Street isn't it. For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how these things go."

The girl had begun by saying that the family had not always lived there, but now notices that they will probably stay there always or at least for a long time. Thus, the new house is their newly acquired identity, and although they are not content with it, they can not escape it.

The House on Mango Street is therefore a story about the beginning of self-awareness of a girl in a world in which she feels she can choose neither her own space nor her identity. The conflict between the personal, private world and social world are emphasized through the story, and the child narrator serves the purpose very well as it allows for this conflict to be captured exactly where….....

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