Essay on Gender Norms in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Essay on Gender Norms in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

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Throughout The House on Mango Street Esperanza learns to resist the gender norms that are deeply imbedded in her community. The majority of the other female characters in the novel have internalized the male viewpoint and they believe that it is their husbands or fathers responsibility to care for them and make any crucial decisions for them. However, despite the influence of other female characters that are “immasculated”, according to Judith Fetterley, Esperanza’s experiences lead her to become a “resisting reader” in Fettereley’s terminology because she does not want to become like the women that she observes, stuck under a man’s authority. She desires to leave Mango Street and have a “home of her own” so that she will never be forced to depend on a man (Cisneros 108). During the course of the novel Esperanza eventually realizes that it is also her duty to go back to Mango Street “For the ones that cannot out”, or the women who do not challenge the norms (110). Esperanza eventually turns to her writing as a way to escape from her situation without having to marry a man that she would be forced to rely on like some of her friends do.
Esperanza is constantly influenced by the women in her own family including her mother, sister and other various family members. Even early in the novel Esperanza recognizes that the boys hold more powers than the girl. She states “The boys and the girls live in different worlds” and how once outside of the house her brothers will not talk to the girls (10). Her brothers recognize that if the other boys in the neighborhood see them with their sisters, they will be mocked. This signals that Esperanza has internalized that the men hold more power even from an early age and her male siblings hold mor...


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...borhood she will not return until she thinks about the other women like Sally, who can not leave the neighborhood and she chooses to eventually go back to help them.
The House on Mango Street presents mainly women who are “assenting readers” and who influence Esperanza to change. She does not realize in the beginning of the novel that she can challenge the male supremacy because she has grown up with it. She never realized that she simply agreed with their viewpoints until she becomes aware of her own sexuality. Esperanza then realizes this can be used against men but that it can come with a price when she is raped.




Works Cited

Fetterley, Judith. The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Literature. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, xi-xxiv. Print.
Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. 2. New York: Vintage Books, 1984. Print.

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