The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros Name: __________________________ o “The House on Mango Street.” 1. Did Esperanza and her family always live on Mango Street? 2. What was the name of the other streets they lived on? 3. Now that they are on Mango Street, do they have to pay rent? 4. Why did they leave their house on Loomis? 5. We talked about our dream houses. What does Esperanza’s dream house look like? 6. Is the house on Mango Street her dream house? 7. Look at the last paragraph on page 5. “For the time being, Mama says. Temporary, says Papa. But I know how those things go.” What does this mean? 8. Look at the second paragraph on page 4. “They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn’t have to move each year.” What do you think is important to Esperanza? How many of you have ever shared a room with a sibling before? What were the problems with sharing that room? This is exactly how Esperanza is feeling. She wants to have things of her own, but people keep getting in the way. 9. Describe what happens with the nun. o “Hairs” 10. Define the terms metaphor, simile, and personification. Locate examples of these different terms. 11. How do you think Esperanza feels about her mom? How do you know? 12. This section uses each of the five senses. Give me some examples. o “Boys and Girls” 13. Finish this sentence. Men are from Mars… What does this mean? Do you remember when you were in elementary school? What did you think about the opposite sex? This is evidence that Esperanza may still be in elementary school. 14. How does Esperanza feel about her sister Nenny? 15. Why does she say that Nenny shouldn’t play with “those Vargas kids or she’ll turn out just like them”? 16. Again, Esperanza mentions wanting to have a best friend all her own. Owning her own things and having privacy are two goals Esperanza has. 17. The last sentence says, “Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.” First, what figure of speech is “I am a red balloon”? Why do you think she chooses the color red? What is an anchor? What do you think her “anchor” is? o “My Name” The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 18. What are some of the things that Esperanza associates with her name? 19. What does Esperanza mean? 20. What was Esperanza’s great-grandmother like? 21. Do you think Esperanza will turn out like her? Why or why not? 22. What name would Esperanza like to have instead of Esperanza? Why do you think she chooses this name? 23. Why doesn’t Esperanza like her name? o “Cathy Queen of Cats” 24. What are some words that would correctly describe Cathy? 25. Why is she called the Queen of Cats? 26. How long is Cathy going to be Esperanza’s friend? Why? 27. Why are Cathy and her family moving away from Mango Street? 28. How do you think Esperanza feels about this? 29. Do you think you would like Cathy? Why or why not? o “Our Good Day” 30. What are the names of Esperanza’s two new friends? 31. What do Esperanza and her new friends buy together? 32. Do Rachel and Lucy accept Esperanza for who she is? How do you know? 33. Is Rachel shyer or more outspoken? How do you know? 34. Why do you think this was such a good day for Esperanza? o “Laughter” 35. Who is Nenny? 36. In previous chapters, what was Esperanza’s attitude toward her little sister? 37. What do Esperanza and Nenny share? 38. What does their laugh sound like? 39. What does Esperanza compare Rachel and Lucy’s lips to? Why didn’t Esperanza say that their lips are just really fat? 40. What does Esperanza compare Rachel and Lucy’s laugh to? Do you think it sounds loud? 41. You’ll notice a lot of descriptive phrases in this section. Focus on these phrases in today’s chapter. Be ready to point out some of these phrases and why you think Esperanza describes objects this way. 42. As Esperanza and friends are walking down the street, Esperanza notes that one of the houses looks like ________. What is Rachel and Lucy’s reaction to this statement? What is Nenny’s response? Have you The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros ever been in a group of people and you say something totally stupid? Maybe you thought this joke would be really funny, but as soon as you say it, you KNOW it was a dumb thing to say. Luckily, your best friend is there and laughs really loud just to save your pride. This is exactly what happens with Nenny. Even though Esperanza’s statement was “dumb”, Nenny has her back. o “Gil’s Furniture Bought and Sold” 43. Look at the following two statements: Refrigerators with rounded corners I bought the Statue of Liberty for a dime 44. What does the first phrase tell you about the refrigerators? Again, Esperanza could have just told us that the refrigerators were old, but she chose to describe them in a more artistic way. What is an allusion (draw in a seemingly random object to represent something specific). What is a symbol (draw in a seemingly random object to represent something specific)? Esperanza could have used any type of statue, but she brings up the Statue of Liberty. Knowing what is important to Esperanza, what does the Statue of Liberty represent to her? (Her need for freedom). 45. Have you ever been to a place like Gil’s Junk Shop? What does it look like inside this shop? If you punched the sofa, what would happen? 46. Describe Gil. 47. Nenny finds a particular object. What is it? When Esperanza hears the word music box, what does she think of? How many of you girls had one of these music boxes when you were younger? Is this what the music box looked like? How does Esperanza react? How about Nenny? What does the music box sound like? What does Gil say about the music box? Why do you think he refuses to sell it to these young girls? (Maybe because they wouldn’t appreciate such an antique). o “Meme Ortiz” 48. We only have about a page total describing Meme Ortiz, yet we know a lot of things about him. Name some of his characteristics. 49. He owns a dog that is supposed to look kind of like him. Have you ever seen 101 Dalmations? There is a part of that movie where there are several owners walking their dogs—the funny part is that they look just like each other. That is what I picture with Meme and his dog. 50. Why do you think the dog has a name in both English and Spanish? 51. Whose house did Meme move into? The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 52. Who built this house? Do you think they did a good job? What is your evidence? What are the 21 steps compared to? What was Cathy’s explanation of this? Do you think it is true? 53. What is the best part of this house? What annual contest is held in this tree? Who won the first one? What happened to him? o “Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin” 54. We next meet Louie, his cousin, and his other cousin. Describe the last image of this chapter. Does this strike you as odd? Why? (Either they are too innocent or too weathered and inure to what they have seen). 55. What happened in this scene in your own words? 56. What does Esperanza focus on describing in this section? (the car rather than the arrest) Isn’t it interesting that she doesn’t even remember this guy’s name? This may be another clue as to how old Esperanza is. She tells the story as if the car is the climax and the arrest is just a side note. 57. What happens to the yellow Cadillac? What does it mean that the nose was all “pleated like an alligator’s”? o “Marin” 58. Marin claims to have a boyfriend from where? 59. The second paragraph describes Marin. What are some of her characteristics? What does this say about her? What modern term would you use to describe Marin? o “Darius and the Clouds” 60. What did he say again about the clouds? 61. How did Esperanza feel about the sky? Look back at the first paragraph on P. 33. o “And Some More” 62. Who are the characters involved in this chapter? 63. What are they doing? 64. How does this word-fight begin? 65. Because of this random fight and the relationship of the girls, what do you think “clouds” symbolize in this section? 66. What is Nenny’s role in this chapter? What is she doing throughout the fight? 67. What do you make of the last few lines: “That’s stupid. Bebe, Blanca, Benny…Who’s stupid? Rachel, Lucy, Esperanza, and Nenny.” Who do you The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros think says the names of the girls? How do you know? Do you think Nenny was really listening to the conversation? Why or why not? o “The Family of Little Feet” 68. Let’s look at the language used to describe. 69. What do the high heels symbolize in this chapter? 70. Who takes the leadership role? 71. Look at the third paragraph on P. 40. Why do you think she says, “…it is scary to look down at your foot that is no longer yours and see attached a long long leg.” 72. When men stare, the girls think, “We must be Christmas.” What does this say about the girls? 73. What is Mr. Benny’s reaction to seeing the shoes? 74. What are other girls’ reactions to seeing the girls in high heels? 75. What fairy tale could we associate with the Bum? 76. What does the Bum ask for? What will he give in exchange? 77. What are “whiskey words”? 78. How is Rachel different from the other girls? 79. Do you think being clean has anything to do with Rachel and Lucy’s mom throwing the shoes away? 80. What social implications does this story have on our society? o “A Rice Sandwich” 81. What does Esperanza want to do? Why? 82. Does this request fit Esperanza’s character? 83. Why doesn’t Mom want to make lunch for the kids? 84. Do Nenny, Kiki, and Carlos want to eat in the canteen? 85. What happens when she shows up to the canteen? 86. How does the nun treat her? 87. Why do you think Esperanza agrees that’s her house when it’s not? 88. What did Esperanza have to eat? What do you think about the last image— the bread already greasy and the rice cold? 89. What could we say about the grass being greener on the other side? o “Chanclas” 90. What is this chapter about? 91. Why is Esperanza so embarrassed? 92. Feet in this section symbolize Esperanza’s growing shame. Notice how many times Esperanza mentions her feet/shoes. 93. What makes Esperanza change her attitude? The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 94. We see Esperanza growing up a little bit here. How do we know? What is she very aware of besides her feet? o “Hips” 95. What are the girls doing in this chapter? 96. What are the functions of hips? 97. Even though Rachel and Esperanza make up their own rhymes, Nenny does a traditional one. Why? 98. This is another chapter about becoming aware of the role of the grown-up woman. There is a standard for women: You must use your hips for practical things like holding babies, but you must maintain the woman’s ideal image. Talk about our ideal women of today as shown in the media. 99. What are hips used for (according to the girls)? Holding a baby To dance You may be a man if you don’t have them To tell the difference between men and women Don’t have too many children (wide hips) Practice walking Rock the baby o “The First Job” 100. Why did Esperanza get a job? 101. Why does Papa warn her against public schools? 102. We see Esperanza growing up in the section about getting sprayed down by a boy. What is her reaction? 103. Where does Esperanza end up working? How does she get this job? 104. After reading the section about eating in the bathroom, ask students what we learn about Esperanza’s character. 105. Why does the story end the way it does? Why doesn’t it reveal Esperanza’s reaction to the kiss? (shame, embarrassment, blaming herself, not the old man) 106. What do you think Cisneros is saying about men in this book? What are some other examples of when men are chastised? o “Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark” 107. What does “abuelito” and “esta muerto” mean? 108. Why do you think Cisneros uses Spanish for this? 109. What does the title tell us about Papa? The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 110. Remember, Esperanza wants to move away from Mango Street, and consequently, her family. In this section, we see a strong bond between Esperanza and her family. She is the responsible one. She is the one who has to take care of the young children. She is the one who comforts her father. We see a strong family tie that will not be so easily broken. o “Born Bad” 111. Describe Aunt Lupe. What is wrong with her? 112. Predict why Esperanza thinks she has killed Aunt Lupe? 113. What are the names of Aunt Lupe’s two children? Totchy and Baby Frank. 114. Discuss the Mexican cultural myths about going to hell, being born on an evil day, the power of prayer. You can also describe traditional Mexican funerals. The loved ones of the person that died place food, clothes, and gifts at the grave for the dead person’s journey into the afterlife. Esperanza is really nervous about what will happen because of her role in the death of Aunt Lupe. 115. There is also a moral message in this section. Talk about how in Romeo and Juliet fate was a major theme. Because you were born on a certain day when the stars were placed just so, your whole future has already been determined. The idea that death chooses people at random to take away is very prevalent in this section, especially when Esperanza is talking about why Aunt Lupe is chosen out of everyone in the world to suffer the life- threatening disease. 116. When Esperanza talks about the day her Aunt died, what does she say was the reason for playing the game? (Aunt Lupe’s death had been normalized. It no longer affected the kids, so they felt it was okay to make fun of her). Ask students if they have ever known someone with a long-term disease. If they have, did you ever forget that they were ill? Esperanza is warning us against forgetting about people who are suffering. Think about the war in the Middle East. We hear about people dying, but after hearing about it so much people tend to become numb. 117. What does Aunt Lupe encourage Esperanza to do? (Keep writing) What will this do for her? (Keep her free) 118. What does Esperanza’s poem mean, especially the part where she says, “One day I’ll jump/out of my skin”? (She wants to find a new identity and leave Mango Street) o “Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water” 119. Before reading the story, ask students to predict who Elenita is based on “Cards, Palm, Water”. The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 120. Why does Esperanza go to see Elenita? 121. In this story, Elenita relies on two very different philosophies: Witchcraft and Christianity. Talk about how in the Catholic Church, summoning spirits and using prayer go hand in hand. 122. What is Elenita’s furniture made of? 123. Do you think Esperanza believes in what Elenita is doing? Yes, because she is there asking questions and no, because she doesn’t see what Elenita sees and even lies about what she sees. 124. Does Elenita give Esperanza the answer she wants? What does Elenita say? What is a home in the heart? (Not a building—it’s a state of mind) o “Geraldo No Last Name” 125. Who is Marin? 126. Tell me what we know about Geraldo. (He is from Mexico, he liked to go out and have fun) 127. What happens to Geraldo? 128. What is a “wet back”? (Someone who swims the Rio Grande from Mexico) 129. What was Geraldo doing in America? 130. What was he doing with the money he made in America? 131. Do you think Geraldo’s death could have been prevented? 132. What is the criticism of society in this section? (“What does it matter?” “How could they?” There is danger in forgetting that people are people no matter where they are from. The doctors might have overlooked him because they knew he was an immigrant (which would probably mean poor). 133. One of the saddest sections of this book is the last part of this vignette. Esperanza gives a sort of epitaph describing all she knew of Geraldo (not much). What does she say about Geraldo’s family back home in Mexico? (They will just assume he forgot about them; they will never know he is dead) o “Edna’s Ruthie” 134. Describe Ruthie. What do you think about her? 135. What might have happened to Ruthie? 136. How do you know something is wrong with Ruthie? Look at the paragraph that says, “Sometimes we go shopping and take her with us, but she never comes inside the stores and if she does she keeps looking around her like a wild animal in a house for the first time.” What does this mean? 137. How is Ruthie like a child? 138. Esperanza can’t understand why Ruthie is living on Mango Street. Why? 139. Do you think Ruthie is really married? The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 140. Does Esperanza like Ruthie? 141. Talk to the students about “The Walrus and the Carpenter”. Ask them if they have ever seen “Alice in Wonderland”. Ask students to recall the storyline. What was Ruthie’s response to hearing Esperanza recite this selection? o “The Earl of Tennessee” 142. Does Earl live in a nice place? How do you know? 143. What two figures of speech are in: “The little wooden door that has wedged shut the dark for so long opens with a sigh and lets out a breath of mold and dampness, like books that have been left out in the rain.” (Personification and simile) 144. Ask students what a sigh is. Most students will actually sigh. Use this sound to explain what the door sounds like when it shuts. 145. What are Earl’s dogs compared to? (a comma and an apostrophe) 146. What does Earl do for a living? 147. Where is Earl from? 148. What are 45 records? Which ones does he refuse to part with? 149. Is Earl really married? How do you know? (Students should point out that there are varying descriptions of the lady, which suggests that there is more than one woman coming into the house—probably prostitutes) 150. What do you make of the last line? “They walk fast into the apartment, lock the door behind them and never stay long.” o “Sire” 151. How would you describe Esperanza in this section? Why? 152. When Esperanza walks in front of Sire and his friends, what do they do? 153. How does Esperanza feel about Sire? 154. What happens to Sire when he stares at Esperanza too long while he is riding his bike? 155. What do Mama and Papa think of Sire? 156. How is Lois described? 157. Why does Esperanza (when talking about Lois) say, “But she doesn’t know how to tie her shoes. I do”? Do you think Lois really can’t tie her shoes? 158. Esperanza watches this couple. She then says, “I want to sit out bad at night, a boy around my neck and the wind under my skirt.” Esperanza is growing up and starting to get interested in the opposite sex. 159. Who is Esperanza talking to in the last paragraph? (Herself) Have you ever practiced kissing on your hand? This is exactly what Esperanza is doing. The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros o “Four Skinny Trees” 160. As students read, draw a picture of four trees that have intertwining roots. Then draw a picture of a girl so that the students understand that Esperanza is comparing herself to these trees. 161. After reading the selection, ask students where the strength lies in a tree? (Roots) Where is Esperanza’s strength? (Her roots) 162. She states that if one of the four trees decided to leave, the rest of the trees would droop because their arms are all wrapped around each other. 163. What lesson do the trees teach Esperanza? (The importance of family and of knowing where you came from) 164. So despite the “concrete” (poverty, bad neighborhood, racism, sexism), Esperanza has to “keep keeping” just like the trees. o “No Speak English” 165. Describe Mamacita. (Make sure students caught the imagery of the man having to pull Mamacita out of the taxi while the taxi driver had to push because she is so big). 166. What is Mamacita’s favorite color? 167. Talk about the possible relationships between Mamacita and the man she is living with (either her husband or her son). This means that the baby could be either her son or her grandson. Explain that a lot of Mexican families are huge (your aunt may actually be younger than you because your mom had a baby after you had a baby). Mamacita is also a term used by husbands to address their wives. Cisneros is ambiguous in this way. 168. Where is Mamacita from? 169. What is Esperanza’s explanation as to why Mamacita never comes down? 170. What are the only eight English words Mamacita knows? 171. How are Esperanza and Mamacita similar? (They both think they will find happiness in a house) “She still sighs for her pink house, and then I think she cries. I would.” 172. Why do you think Mamacita doesn’t want to learn English? (This is sort of the opposite of the American Dream). 173. Why is Mamacita so upset when the little boy sings the Pepsi commercial? o “Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut & Papaya Juice on Tuesdays” 174. Tell students to pay close attention to the allusion to Rapunzel. Compare the stories by asking what the problems were in the fairy tale (Students should come to the conclusion that everyone wanted something in the story— Rapunzel’s mom wanted the lettuce, Rapunzel’s dad wanted to make mom The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros happy, the evil enchantress wanted someone to possess, Rapunzel wanted freedom, and the prince wanted Rapunzel). 175. What is going on with Rafaela? Be sure to explain that most of our doors here in Texas are not the same as the ones in Chicago. Chicago has doors that can lock you inside if someone takes the key and locks it with the key. If you don’t have a key, all you see is a deadbolt that can only be accessed with a key from either the inside or outside. 176. Why does she wish to be Rapunzel? 177. Who represents the evil enchantress? 178. Discuss how abuse of all sorts is represented in this novel. o “Sally” 179. What does Sally look like at the beginning of this vignette? 180. What does her father say about being beautiful? Why does he believe this? 181. Who is talking to Sally throughout this story? (Esperanza) 182. What is Sally’s favorite color? 183. What is happening to Sally? How do you know? 184. What is it like for her at school? 185. You can tell Esperanza is talking to her because she thinks the solution for Sally is to get as far away as possible from Mango Street. o “Minerva Writes Poems” 186. What is Minerva’s situation? 187. What does she enjoy doing? 188. What does the line “the big one is her husband who left and keeps leaving” mean? 189. Notice Esperanza’s response to hearing that Minerva once again lets her abusive husband come back home. She says, “There is nothing I can do.” Do you agree? Why? o “Bums in the Attic” 190. Why does Esperanza refuse to go with her family to look at the houses on the hill? 191. What is Esperanza accusing the people who live on the hill of doing? What is their attitude? Do you agree? 192. Why does Esperanza say she will invite bums to live in her attic? This is pretty extreme, but notice Esperanza claims, “I won’t forget who I am or where I came from.” Has she proven this claim at all in the book so far? The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros o “Beautiful and Cruel” 193. When Esperanza says she will not “grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain,” to what is she referring? 194. Esperanza wants to be powerful in her own right. What is Esperanza’s “quiet war” she plans to wage? o “A Smart Cookie” 195. List the things Esperanza’s mother is able to do. 196. Esperanza’s mother tells her to go to school. What reason does she give for quitting school herself? 197. Why might Esperanza’s mother be having this discussion with Esperanza? o “What Sally Said” 198. We find out that Sally is being abused by whom? Why? 199. Like Minerva and other women in the story who are abused, Sally forgives her Dad, but the vicious cycle of abuse continues. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are abused are either in denial, they are scared, or they believe the lies that things will get better—people can change. o “The Monkey Garden” 200. Can you picture the Monkey Garden? It’s like a really cool, overgrown junkyard. Esperanza, like many kids, loves to explore. 201. When the boys take Sally’s keys, is Sally really upset? How do you know? 202. Esperanza doesn’t understand the flirtation that is going on. She is very upset because it seems as though Sally is living up to the rumors about her (that she sleeps around). What is some evidence of this? 203. When Sally agrees to give kisses to Tito and his friends, what does Esperanza do first? 204. When this doesn’t work, what does Esperanza plan on doing with the three sticks and a brick? 205. Have you ever felt so humiliated by a friend or a sibling that you want to just “die”? Maybe not literally, but that feeling of complete embarrassment can make you think that you don’t want to ever see anyone ever again. Esperanza feels this way. 206. At the end of the chapter we find out that Esperanza never goes back to the Monkey Garden again. What might this garden represent for Esperanza? o “Red Clowns” The House on Mango Street Study Questions Sandra Cisneros 207. What happens to Esperanza in this chapter? How do you know? 208. Who does Esperanza blame? Why? 209. Why does she call Sally a liar? When Esperanza says she “waited [her] whole life,” what does this mean? 210. What is the setting of the chapter? Why is this ironic considering what happens? o “Linoleum Roses” 211. Who does Sally marry? What does this tell you about the man she marries? 212. How old is Sally? Did you expect her to be older? 213. Sally’s idea of love and marriage shows how very young she is. What do we find out about her husband? 214. Why does Sally get married so young, according to Esperanza? o “The Three Sisters” 215. Who dies in this chapter? 216. Describe the sisters? What do they sound like from their descriptions? 217. When Esperanza makes a wish, what do you think she wishes for? 218. What does the following line mean? “When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.” o “Alicia & I Talking on Edna’s Steps” 219. Look back at the chapter “Alicia Who Sees Mice.” Describe Alicia. 220. What does Alicia mean when she says, “Like it or not you are Mango Street, and one day you’ll come back too. 221. Why won’t the mayor be able to help Mango Street? Who does Alicia imply should fix Mango Street. o “A House of My Own” 222. What does this chapter show you about Esperanza? o “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes” 223. How will Esperanza “come back” to Mango Street when she leaves? 224. What are some themes explored in the book that show up in this last chapter?
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