The House on Mango Street and Esperanza's Experiences With Gender Inequality

To many, their first sex experience was the fulfillment of lust, satisfaction, and pleasure, but to some, it was pain, deprive of innocence and inequality. In “The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros, Esperanza grows up in a street where men are the takers and women are providers, this place is full of inequality and discrimination of women.

When Esperanza goes to the Carnival, she experiences rape, but the rapist did not experience the punishment of justice. The rape did not merely take away her virginity; it also destroyed the wall of protection.

Sandra Cisneros uses the life of Esperanza and her eventual understanding of sex and Mango Street to inform the society of gender inequality.

For Esperanza, who is merely twelve years old, should be maturing and starting to originate her values of this world, but the rules of society were already taught to them. Many would agree that a twelve years old girl would be naïve and ignorant in terms of sex and the truth of society.

However, this illusion is utterly cast away when Esperanza informs the readers about her name and society. She claims: “The boys and the girls live in separate worlds the boys in their universe and we in ours” (Cisneros 8).

False from the supposed society of children playing together, a stark division already emerged when they are still innocent. One will agree that children at this age should not understand this and realize this. However, the opposition from the stereotypical imagined society for children like them implies that they were taught this way or they saw something else that they start to learn from it.

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Esperanza, in chapter four, talks about her grandmother’s zodiacal and distinctive identity of being a “horse woman,” but shortly after she explains her reason of not believing this which is “the Chinese, like the Mexicans, do not like their women strong” (Cisneros 10).

This quote implies that she was already taught that women should be lower than men. It would be irrational to believe that Esperanza figured this out herself. However, furtherly, the fact that the barrier between girls and boys was already formed implies that this is the rule for Mango Street or everyone’s creed. If Esperanza and her family were the only people who believed in this rule, then it would be absurd for the other children to involve in building this gender wall. The wall between girls and boys not only blocks their friendships and happiness but also creates the difference in their roles in society.

Esperanza starts to encounter puberty shortly after, and her feelings towards sex start to alter, provoking the change in her natural reactions. It is natural for a person to feel different because of the occurrence of puberty, and this is the exact case for Esperanza. Esperanza’s friend Marin is more sexually attractive to the boys because she wears “skirts [that] are shorter” and has “eyes [that] are pretty” (Cisneros 27). When “the boys […] pass by [they] say […] things like I am in love with those two green apples you call eyes” (Cisneros 27), Esperanza grows a plant of complicated feelings in her mind, which consists of both jealousy and rationality.

It is natural for her to be jealous of boys flirting with a girl who is more sexually charming than her, but her other side of natural instance occurs and warns that this could be dangerous and could cause problems that she never thought of. So, she reconciles for calling what the boys say to Marin “stupid things” (Cisneros 27). The clash between both of her natural feelings implies how she suffers in this society. She indeed craves for sex and the fulfillment of lust, but at the same time, she is afraid of something, something that the readers do not know at that second, but will encounter later in the book.

In chapter twenty-one, Esperanza gets kissed by a man in the man’s advance, the man wanted “a birthday kiss” and Esperanza agreed because she thought that it was only a kiss on “his cheek” but then the man “grabs [her] face with both hands and kisses [her] hard on the mouth and doesn’t let go” (Cisneros 55). This is what Esperanza is afraid of the sexual advances of men. She lusts for consensual sex, but at the same time, she fears sexual advances from men.

Nevertheless, in an unequal society like Mango Street where “[men] do not like their women strong” (Cisneros 10), she will not be able to fulfill her lust and sexual needs while they need to serve men. This is proven when Esperanza encounters rape. She describes: “What he did. Where he touched me, I did not want it, […] make him stop. I couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t do anything but cry” (Cisneros 99-100). Esperanza did not describe any details of the actual rape but only her feelings about it.

The truth of her not describing the details is that she does not want to talk about the actual rape and reencounter this pain. She is scared of the men, but she could not stand up for herself. Nevertheless, her feelings towards this rape imply that this was her first time, and it was rape, which took away her virginity. She never had sex before, and she craves for consensual sex where she would be able to fulfill herself, not the man. She describes: “The way they said it, the way it is supposed to be, all the storybooks and movies” (Cisneros 99).

Her prior fantasy of sex is raped at the same time, depicting an image that sex to her is slavery and following orders. Sex to her is to fulfill the man’s pleasure, not her. The fact that she did not use the word “sex” once in her description proves the point that her teenage fantasies of sex are destroyed, being substituted by pain and humiliation.

The simple description of her experience shows how painful she is, implying how she does not want to talk about it. Nevertheless, furthermore, whenever she has sex in the future, she is going to remember this occasion where she lost her virginity, engraving the pain and humiliation in her heart even more. The feelings and how they do not even care about this implies that this is a rule for Mango Street and a creed for men living there. The men use women as a utility to unleash their sexual wants, and the women’s fate is only to follow their orders, and to serve them. Nevertheless, to Esperanza, the only way to escape this slavery is to escape Mango Street.

When Esperanza understands the truth of Mango Street and what are the jobs of men and women, her only fate would be to continue or leave. When she suffers from her sex and serving men, she covets to leave and escape from this place and to continue her prior dreams of finding “a real house” (Cisneros 5). Nevertheless, even though if she escapes from this street of sex discrimination, the broken virginity that once protected her from the reality would still remind her of this time where she suffered as a woman to serve men.

Sandra Cisneros completed the book’s mission of “to the women” (Cisneros). Even though people would not know whom she is writing to, but her book has completed its destiny of using Esperanza’s life to remind people of gender inequality.

Sandra Cisneros uses the character Esperanza to unlock and unleash the truth ofgender inequality in Mango Street and to let people realize the truth of it. While the story of Esperanza remains in the pages of “the House on Mango Street,” what readers can do is to stop Esperanza’s story from occurring in real life, creating many Esperanza’s.

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The House on Mango Street and Esperanza's Experiences With Gender Inequality. (2023, May 06). Retrieved from

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