Dreams of the Lower Class

Dreams of the Lower Class

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In "Bums in the Attic," a chapter from her novel The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros discusses the differences between groups in which the upper class ignores anyone not belonging to the same leisure status. Those belonging to the lower classes however, has had to work to gain success and cannot forget the past in which he struggled. In chasing the American dream, the lower class realizes that the only way to gain true happiness from monetary success, one cannot forget his past and must therefore redefine the traditional attitude of the upper class.

The upper class lives far above the poor, causing the lower class to feel shame which then stimulates the desire to achieve equality and happiness which the American dream promises. The narrator, Esperanza, admits that when looking at the homes on the hill, "I am ashamed--all of us staring out the window like the hungry. I am tired of looking at what we can`t have." She feels self-conscious not only for her lack of money and house, but also because her family looks at these houses with such longing that their expressions are comparable to "the hungry." Since she feels that her family's income and means exists beyond the starving class, she does not want to look at the houses with an appearance of hunger. She feels ashamed for belonging to the lower class who can only look and admire the houses but cannot own them. Ezperanza no longer feels content with looking at the houses because she wants her own yet knows that at the moment, she cannot have it. In addition, Esperanza notes that "People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth." The upper class lives on a metaphorical hill, near the stars and heavens because society raises up those with money. Because society places the wealthy on a pedestal or "hill" they become unaware of anyone other than those who live leisurely lives. They do not see the poor who struggle and work through the everyday hardships life throws at them. According to Esperanza, the poor live "too much on earth" signifying that they have experienced too many trials and tribulations yet have not spent anytime amongst the stars.

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Yet despite any feelings of shame or embarrassment, the family still maintains hope as Esperanza's mother dreams of "When we win the lottery..." Her mother longs to one day be seen as equal to the owners of the houses on the hill. She does not even modify her dream with the word "if" and instead says "when," emphasizing the optimism and sheer desire to live in the same class as the wealthy. Esperanza herself, despite her shame declares, "One day I'll own my own house." In fact, it is in spite of her embarrassment that she feels determined to posses her own house. She has no desire to remain in the lower class, looked down upon or simply ignored, and therefore aspires to become part of the upper class. Esperanza, like her mother, does not say "if" and instead truly believes that one day she will become wealthy enough to own her own house.

Because Esperanza and her family do not come from money they must struggle in order to climb the ranks of society and achieve the American dream, and will therefore never be able to forget or deny the lower class past of which they were born to. According to Esperanza, those who live on hills "don't look down at all except to be content to live on hills." While the wealthy generally ignores the lower class, they still acknowledge its existence, looking down from the hill. The upper class simply feels "content" with the fact that it has more than the poor. Upon looking down from the hill, the rich feel no obligation or even desire to reach out and help anyone from a lower class and simply sit "content to live on hills." Esperanza however, vows that once she owns her house, "I won't forget who I am or where I came from." Although she feels ashamed for belonging to the lower class, she realizes that she can never "forget" her past. Because "who I am" and "where I came from" seem to be equated as Esperanza promises not to forget either, she admits that her poverty and struggles will always be a part of the person she is. Denying the hardships she, as a member of the lower class faces would essentially also deny herself as a person. As she continues to dream of her future house, she declares "I know how it is to be without a house" and will therefore offer the passing homeless to stay in her attic. Esperanza knows the struggles and difficulties of the lower class because she lives in this class. She has watched her father work extremely hard as her family only goes out "on Sundays, Papa's day off." While most people get both Saturdays and Sundays off from work, Esperanza's father receives only one day of relaxation. Because Esperanza sees and lives these hardships firsthand, her character is molded by the struggles the lower class must face and the memories will always remain a part of her. She will not deny the "bums" shelter once she achieves the American dream of success and equality because her memories will not allow her to ignore those "who live too much on earth." When her future guests ask about the noise coming from the attic of her house, Esperanza will proudly announce, "Bums,...and I'll be happy." This final line of the chapter emphasizes the importance of the inclusion of her past struggles in the lower class play. In the end, Esperanza will only feel happy when she takes the time to include her past self of a lower class worker without a house into her new life. In the end, she will find contentment, but only after taking pride and acknowledging her past.

Because Esperanza will not ignore or deny the hardships of everyday life which she endures as she chases the American dream, she will find true contentment. She looks toward the future without forgetting her past, and will ultimately end with happiness. Cisneros illustrate the difficulties the lower class faces achieving the American dream since the wealthy have no inclination to offer help. The lower class must struggle to achieve the equality promised in the founding principles of America, yet they also realize that the American dream of success means nothing if only achieved on a monetary level.

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