Mango Street Essay


The Use of Windows in The House on Mango Street

 In Sandra Cisneros’s novel, The House on Mango Street Cisneros tells the coming of age of Esperanza and shows the reader the social politics, relationships, and people Esperaza interacts with as she grows. In the novel, Cisneros spends time examining several oppressive relationships both on a personal and systemic level. In The House on Mango Street, Cisneros uses the motif of windows to support the theme of isolation and separation within these relationships, representing the barriers and desire for freedom within class, race, and gender.

One use of windows as a display of separation is in the separation of class. This is shown in “Bums in the Attic.” Here Esperanza shares her thoughts on not wanting to go look at the houses near where her father works with her family: “I don’t tell them I am ashamed一all of us staring out the window like the hungry. I am tired of looking at things we can’t have” (Cisneros 86). This quote uses windows to separate the classes, showing Esperanza’s lower-middle-class family a glimpse of the life they want, but feels so out of reach. The window functions as somewhat of a crystal ball showing the family one of their greatest desires, but not letting them reach out to it. This leaves the family yearning for what they know they can’t obtain, stuck with the knowledge that they’re just playing a sad game of pretend, putting on what used to be their favorite pair of shoes now faded a murky pink tint not fitting their new adult feet, knowing they’re still stuck on their side of the impermeable, unignorable, invisible barrier. 

Windows are also used to represent the barrier of class in “Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin” “The windows didn’t roll up like ordinary cars. instead, there was a button that did it for you automatically … but Louie’s cousin said he was going to make us walk home if we didn’t stop playing with the windows or touching the FM radio” (Cisneros 24). In this quote Esperanza, Marin, and Louie and his sisters are in the new car that Louie’s cousin stole. In this quote the new windows represent perceived wealth and freedom from poverty. When the people in the car play with the windows it shows how they feel as if they’re experiencing a small break in the divide of class putting the barrier up and down as they please; however, since the car is stolen Louie’s cousin knows it isn’t real. Louie’s cousin is not only lying to others but himself he’s allowing himself to indulge in the admiration he receives but by telling them to stop messing with the windows he’s showing he knows it’s not real.  

Another use of separation shown through windows is the separation of race shown in the chapter “Those Who Don’t”: “But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight” (Cisneros 28). Esperanza thinks this after she explains the misconceptions about her neighborhood being dangerous. In this passage, Cisneros uses the rolling up of windows to show the putting up of a barrier. This separation is not only between white people and POC but amongst POC showing how the “us” in the quote feels the same way about the “neighborhood of another color” as “those who don’t.”

The final separation shown through windows is the isolation of women and girls displayed throughout the book. The first example of this is on page 11 in “My Name”: “And the story goes she never forgave him. She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow” (Cisneros 11). This first example of windows used to show the entrapment of women is in reference to Esperanza’s namesake, her great-grandmother, and fellow “wild horse of a woman” born in the Chinese year of the horse. This quote shows the original Esperanza trapped by her husband; the window in this quote shows original Esperanza stuck using windows as an escape.

The use of windows to show the isolation of women is used a few times specifically in reference to the character Sally, in the chapter “linoleum roses”:  “Except he won’t let her talk on the telephone. And he doesn’t let her look out the window” (Cisneros 101-102). This passage is Esperanza telling the reader about the relationship between Sally and her husband. Sally’s story is different from the other women in similar positions because though windows represent isolation they still function as windows allowing the people to see the other side. Sally doesn’t even get to look at freedom, showing how imprisoned Sally really is. 

However “Linoleum Roses” wasn’t the first use of the motif of windows in reference to Sally. The first is in the earlier chapter “Sally” saying, “Do you wish your feet would one day keep walking and take you far away from Mango Street, far away and maybe your feet would stop in front of a house, a nice one with flowers and big windows and steps for you to climb up two by two upstairs to where a room is waiting for you. And if you opened the little window latch and gave it a shove, the windows would swing open, all the sky would come in”(Cisneros 82-83). This quote is Esperanza’s internal monologue on what she wants to say to Sally. Throughout the book, windows are frequently used as not only a symbol of separation but a glimpse of prosperity and freedom but especially here, because unlike the other non-car windows in The House on Mango Street this figurative window opens “and with a swing open all the sky would come in.” The opening of the window shows that this Sally is breaking the barrier; she’s no longer held captive telling the reader that unlike the real Sally this Sally is free.

In conclusion windows in The House on Mango Street represent the barriers that separate and isolate the marginalized characters in the book while also showing these same characters an escape and chance at freedom by way of class, race and gender. The House on Mango Street uses windows to inform the reader about the positions of the character in these situations and Esperanza’s understanding of them. Cisneros’ use of this motif analyzes these systems and the way the characters affected by them understand them.


I chose to use my essay on motifs in house on mango street. I’m pretty proud of this project i was really exited about writing about this topic and i had a lot of ideas and i think it came out pretty well.

This is an essay I pretty much had in my mind since I knew what we had to write about in this unit. I really appreciate how Cisneros chose to write the oppressive dynamics in this book and I really enjoyed writing about it. I wouldn’t really consider myself i writer but I’m happy with how I was able to convey my thoughts.