Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street is a novel (or, in some cases, a short story) that gives an account of the life of an adolescent Chicana girl, Esperanza Cordero. The story is based on the experiences of Esperanza, as she grows from childhood into adolescence in the Hispanic-dominated part of Chicago. It tells the story of a girl from a poor background who, as she grows up into adolescence, is confronted with the realities of her patriarchal society (de Valdés, 2005 and McCracken, 1989).
Cisneros is famous for her role in the literary reflection and feminist representation of the Chicana experience (Betz, 2012). The House on Mango Street is partially based on Cisneros' personal experiences while she was a young girl herself. It was published in 1984, and it reflects the cultural conflicts of the Chicanas and underrepresentation of a minority group in the society, at a time when Mexican-Americans were still faced with social discrimination and economic inequality in the US.
This work is often described as a masterpiece because of its revolutionary presentation of narratives in comparison with the previous literature categories that existed. The novel presents the theme of Mexican-American culture, in combination with elements such as race, social class, gender, sexuality, and identity (Betz, 2012).
In this article, we shall be examining "The House on Mango Street" Archetypes, also putting into account the relevance of these archetypes in the development of the story.
Archetypes, in literature, are ideas, situations, patterns, symbols, and/or characters that are used by the writer to represent an element in the universal experience of the human mind. In other words, they are certain things in a work of fiction that represent a general idea or a universally popular concept (Baldick, 2018).
In literature, archetypes are important in the development of a story. They one of the key literary elements, adopted by the writer, to make the plot of a story compelling or captivating to the reader (Baldick, 2018). Universal archetypes, for example, are used by fictional writers to develop storylines that tap into the crudest part of human experience. They are like the guidelines a writer must follow in storytelling. They add to the depictions readers can form ideas, events, themes, and symbols and make a story more vivid on their minds.
Now that we have a clear understanding of what archetypes are, let us quickly move on to the examination of "The House on Mango Street" Archetypes, only a few, with recourse to their significance in the development of the novel.
Usually, when we think of the word, "house", different connotations run through our mind; a family, affiliations or identities, or just an enclosed shelter. When we think of a house, as in a building, we like to think of a location and the class or prestige attached to living in that neighborhood. "House", in this novel, shows us Esperanza's poor background and cultural affiliations. The house here, located on Mango Street, a quarter of Chicago where the poor and underrepresented group live, question our formulated beliefs of what the American society is about. The way the story deviates from the expectations of the reader is used to establish this fact and reflect the prejudices outsiders form about a particular group of people (Betz, 2012).
Esperanza Cordero, the naive girl from a poor background, is the common and most dominant archetype in The House On Mango Street. She narrates the story, and we're able to see, through her eyes, the realities of a young girl from a poor family in a socially and economically sidelined group. Her character represents a whole lot of things ranging from social inequality to gender, to the quest for self-awareness or the realization of one's identity as a woman in a conventionally oppressive community (Chakravtee, 1994 and González, 1994; 1996).
Esperanza is a reflection of Cisneros herself 15 years before she published The House On Mango Street. We find out that as the plot of the story develops, Esperanza also develops and changes. As a bildungsroman character, we struggle with her along the way as she manages to form and establish her identity in a society of conflicting cultures and beliefs.
We encounter her through two different cultural views, American, around which her life revolves, and Mexican, her heritage and ancestry. Esperanza represents a typical Chicano woman, who is a bid to establish herself, decides to reject the affiliations she has (González, 1994).
As an archetypal creation, Esperanza Cordero represents the conflicts of characters and cultures, the struggle of individuals with a hybrid culture or lifestyle to find their true selves (de Valdes, 1992). Her character can also be seen as an archetype of the Latin-American woman, a representation of the women within and outside the Mexican-American community (González, 1994).
The Three Psychic Sisters are also a form of archetype used, by Cisneros, to represent the concepts of fate, predetermination, and the foreshadowing of future truths.
These sisters can be viewed as an allusion to the three sisters in the Greek mythology as well as the Three Wise Men in The Bible who, after the birth of a child, show up to foretell the events that would make up the child's experiences as they grow up, even until their death. They serve the sole purpose of teaching us the ignorant truths about human life generally.
Like the Garden of Eden in the biblical book of Genesis, this archetypal garden also represents the beginning and fall of man, or, in this case, the transition of Esperanza from innocence to the knowledge of good and evil.
This garden plays a significant role in the development of Esperanza's experience as the plot of the novel develops (Morlock, 2016).
At first, the garden is presented to us as a place of innocence, where children could play and run around naked among the greens without any care for the things happening in the world. But afterward, when Esperanza realizes that Sally goes off to kiss Tito and the boys, she begins to form sex-related thoughts only adults could understand.
Esperanza's rape by the boys at the carnival is the climax of the story. It helps us to understand the real truths about life, the oppression of the womenfolk, and the helplessness of a rape victim in the hands of the violently wicked ones (Chakravtee, 1994).
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