Childhood Trauma In The House On Mango Street

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Frequent moving can affect children negatively because each additional move is associated with small declines in social skills as well as emotional and behavioral problems. Although the effects are small, these deficits can expand. In the short story, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, the main character, who is also the narrator, struggles with worthiness and the lack of appreciation which is expressed through the specific setting and the descriptive characterization. The narrator tells the story of her family’s frequent moving while describing and comparing her experience and struggle of her previous house to the current one. The narrator’s family consists of six people; the mom, the dad, Carlos, Kiki, Nenny, and the narrator. Being a family of six and struggling financially causes endless problems for the family, requiring them to move frequently. 

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The author uses specific setting in order to portray the reason why the family left the old house and how the narrator struggles with her sense of worthiness. The reason why the narrator’s family moved from the Loomis was because “the water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn’t fix them because the house was too old. They were using the washroom next door and carrying water over in empty milk gallons” (3). The narrator’s family lived in a flat where they encountered numerous obstacles, such as broken water pipes and having to talk quietly in order to reduce the noise complaints. However, the landlord did not care for the flat since it was quite old. Cisneros establishes the worthiness of the narrator’s old home by describing the complications through the specific setting of the home. The protagonist’s struggle with worthiness is portrayed by Cisneros’ use of descriptive characterization throughout the short story. The protagonist describes how her family’s dream house “would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. This was the house Papa talked about … and this was the house Mama dreamed up in the stories she told …. But the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it all”. Her dreams got crushed because her parents constantly talk about this “dream house” however, when they moved to their own house, it was nothing like the one they fantasized about, in fact, it was small and had many imperfections. The short story is narrated in a manner that depicts the protagonist’s struggle with worthiness through the use of vivid setting and the definitive characterization of the main character. 

The protagonist strongly illustrates the new house on Mango Street by criticizing it with a lack of gratitude. In the back of the house, there is “a small garage for the car … and a small yard that looks smaller between the two buildings on either side. The house has only one washroom. Everybody has to share a bedroom – Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny”. The house is very small and the depiction of it reveals the protagonist’s ignorance and disapproval of the new home. Cisneros highlights the main character’s lack of appreciation for the new house by emphasizing her reaction. While the main character was playing in front of her house, a nun from her school asked: “‘You live there?’  The way she said it made me feel like nothing. There. I lived there” . The tone which the nun spoke with to the protagonist caused her to feel less than what she is, which made her more insecure about her status, leading her to lose value of her home and depreciate what she has. The nun said “there” in a way that degraded the house and implied that it was unexpected that a private school girl would live in an impoverished house. The short story unfolds suppositionally by representing the protagonist’s disparagement through explicit setting and the eloquent characterization of the narrator. 

 The character’s shame in her house seems to be wrapped up in her feelings about wealth and status. The character’s house is not just a house, but an expression of her family’s poverty and status. Houses become the embodiment of the character’s fantasy about wealth and happiness. 

29 April 2022

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