Through eloquence and observation, the story of Esperanza depicts a young girl’s maturity in regard to community, culture, identity, and feminism. She is instantly unique from other children, as her journal-like diction creates a vivid picture of the community on Mango Street.
In a transformation from childhood to adolescence, Esperanza’s quest for self- identity is guided by her undying tenacity to escape the tight grip of poverty and the expected roles of women in society Esperanza’s use of writing gradually connects her to the women in her neighborhood because her experiences on Mango Street impact her sense of self in the world, adding to its value as a Bildungsroman.
Imagery pervades Esperanza‘s language and fuels the descriptions of not only the physical world surrounding her but the inherent emotions she struggles to overcome. In a metaphor, a young and isolated Esperanza states, “MI am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor”.
The comparison suggests her to be floating and separate from others, yet stuck in one place.
Esperanza desperately wants to have the qualities of this red balloon and float up into the sky, suggesting the wavering temptation of freedom. Yet, she is only a child, incapable of true liberation. Her existence lies in the hands of her family, social position, and gender. Only through her expression of language does Esperanza begin to grow and reflect on these concepts she remains trapped in the inevitable process of growing up. In this first stage of coming of age, Esperanza begins her process of characterization and learning to embrace her life on Mango Street. Surrounded by women, naive and impressionable Esperanza observes the circumstances and consequences of choices. Her great-grandmother, a once strong and “wild horse of a woman” was bound to the expectations of marriage and lost her freedom to a man that ”carried her off… as if she were a fancy chandelier”.
By describing her grandmother as an object, Esperanza‘s perception of the tight bounds of marriage are negative She knows at a young age that this fate is not destined for her. Additionally, Esperanza’s mother quit school as a young girl, explaining to Esperanza the limits of her ability to “be somebody“ Using examples of her friends who have suffered due to their dependence on men, her mother encourages Esperanza to be able to survive on her own. This lesson is refreshing, as most women in the story embrace the societal expectations of male domination. Both relatives of Esperanza understand a deeper and instinctual need to be free and resent their circumstances as women. While her mother acknowledges her regrets, this chapter exemplifies a strength that most of the women lack on Mango Street, Similes are a strong example of her forming diction and she repeatedly uses this form of figurative language to paint a picture of a scene she is observing.
In the presence of Esperanza‘s dying aunt, the prospect of her surviving is deemed slim, as she is “yellow” and has “bones limp as worms”. Her head is “thrown back like a thirsty lady” and Esperanza and her friends look at her like she is a “little oyster, a little piece of meat on an open shelf, for us to look at. Yet, Esperanza likes her aunt. As a once flourishing and successful swimmer, Aunt Lupe’s existence is a grim example of the unfair aspects of life. The disease was so rampant in its engulfment of her aunt that Esperanza was used to her circumstances. It became a normal scene to hert Sometimes, Esperanza would read poetry out loud to her aunt, who was blind at this point. In a poem written by Esperanza herself, she reads “1 want to be like the waves on the sea, like the clouds in the wind, but I‘m me”.
Lupe senses her want of escape, and reminds her of the importance of using writing as a form of freedom Although she is too young to understand the importance of this yet, it is her first notion of language being used as a form of overcoming entrapment of poverty. As Esperanza continues to grow up, a friendship forms between her and a neighborhood girl named Sally, she is beautiful, with “eyes like Egypt and nylons the color of smoke”. She has black hair, “like raven feathers” and when she laughs, “she flicks her hair back like a satin shawl over her shoulders”. Their friendship has a significant impact on Esperanza’s perception of sexuality and the interactions between men and women.
In the climax of her story, Sally’s promiscuity challenges the boundaries between naivety and adulthood Her beauty and submissive nature towards men exemplify how different Esperanza is from the women on Mango Street. She contains a strength beyond Sally and everything Sally represents. There is an inherent need to protect other women, a quality that eventually defines Esperanza’s character. In the conclusion of Esperanza’s youth, she discovers the value of her mother and Aunt Lupe’s words. She craves independence and self-reliability, which she finds through the skill of writing. Language guides her freedom and leads her to want to return and help the women on Mango Street Her escape will bring her back to the world she came from. Esperanza finally accepts the part she plays in her community, and her transformation of self expression brings her back to her roots As she reveals her true intentions, she sates, “I have gone away to come back for the ones I left behind for the ones who cannot out”.