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					English 9 / Mrs. Walsh
The House on Mango Street

                        A Reader-Response Approach
The House on Mango Street is a unique story of one girl's journey in, through, and
beyond the streets of her childhood. While Esperanza is a Chicana youth from Chicago,
her trials and tribulations ring true for anybody who has felt that he or she hasn't
belonged, or who has had the desire to grow beyond emotional restrictions and physical
restraints.

During this unit, students will be expected to respond both critically and creatively to
the novel, the actual physical construction of which is far from orthodox: The novel
grabs the reader by the hand and takes them on a rip-romping, jump-roping, tear-
jerking, knee-scraping game of tag. The story is not told in typical linear fashion; there
isn't much of a beginning, middle, or end. Instead, numerous vignettes circle around the
interactions of Esperanza and the people she loves, and those she meets on the streets of
her neighborhood. The vignettes revolve around a few specific themes, which gives
cohesion to the novella.

As a simple coming of age story, The House on Mango Street, can be underestimated.
Cisneros has an impressive and original voice in her writing, and readers must interact
with her text, not let the words passively cascade over their eyes. Students must talk
back, ask questions, argue and wrestle with the words on the page, because those words
represent a life, a struggle, an existence that needs to be and deserves to be discovered,
and rediscovered. Each student will uncover his or her own truths about Mango
Street…which is what the author intended.

                           The House on Mango Street
                     Analytical and Creative Writing Prompts

Note Please complete only the numbered questions (the analytical prompts)
as you read. The “Creative Prompts” will be addressed in your final project, and you
will only be required to select five of them at that time! (This is not to suggest that you
can’t at least glance at and consider which ones appeal to your creative impulses!)
Chapter One - The House on Mango Street
   1. The house on Mango Street isn’t what Esperanza wanted. What did Esperanza
      want her house to look like? What does this chapter tell us about Esperanza’s
      social and economic status?
   Creative Prompt: "You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing."
   Write about a time when someone made you feel like "nothing."
Chapter Two - Hairs
   1. From the description, what kind of relationship does Esperanza have with her
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       mother?
    Creative Prompt: Cisneros uses vivid language to describe the hair of each family
    member. And in doing so she hints at the personality of each member. Write a brief,
    but vivid description of your family members’ hair types, being sure to hint at their
    personalities through your description.
Chapter Three - Boys and Girls

    1. What do you learn about the narrator's culture from the way the children are
       thought of and the way the children behave? What does this vignette tell about
       the relationship between males and females?
    2. Esperanza has to take care of her sister, Nenny. She wonders if she’ll ever be free;
       she decides, "until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor." Discuss
       the metaphor of the red balloon: What are the associations with a red balloon and
       why does this fit Esperanza’s situation? Who or what is the anchor? Is it more
       than just her sister?
    Creative Prompt: Write about a responsibility you have that is directly related to
    your gender - being either a boy or a girl. Discuss if this is a fair requirement and
    ponder what responsibilities you might like to have.
Chapter Four - My Name
    1. Explain what Ezperanza’s name means in Spanish; who is she named after and
       why doesn’t she want to "inherit her place by the window?" What does it mean to
       her in English and why? Why is hard to navigate between two cultures?
    Creative Prompt: What is the origin of your name? Does it have any cultural or
    family historical significance? Do you have trouble dealing with your name and the
    expectations of that name? If you could change your name, what would you change it
    to and why? Revise your copy change, and incorporate this information.
Chapter Five - Cathy Queen of Cats

    1. What do you learn about Alicia? Why do you think Alicia stopped being friendly
       with Cathy?
    2. What do you learn about Esperanza from the way she accepts the stories from
       Cathy?
    3. Find the elements of danger that exist in Esperanza’s neighborhood. Find the
       hidden elements of discrimination in this chapter.
    Creative Prompt: Cisneros uses a unique objective style to describe Cathy, Benny
    and Blanca, Alicia. She illustrates these people in a very straightforward style.
    Describe three unique people in your life using Cisneros’ observant style.
Chapter Six - Our Good Day
    1. How does such a simple thing as obtaining a bicycle create such joy in Rachel,
       Lucy and Esperanza? What do they see when they ride the bike? How does this
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     reinforce the landscape of Esperanza’s neighborhood?
  Creative Prompt:    Write about a simple thing that caused you great joy? Try to
  figure out why?
Chapter Seven - Laughter

  1. Several vignettes have been about more than the facts they present, for instance
     “Hairs” and “My Name.” Here is another vignette that is about more than mere
     details. What is the theme of the vignette?
  2. Why do both Nenny and Esperanza think that the house looks like Mexico?
  Creative Prompt: Cisneros uses a simile to describe the sisters’ laughter - "Our
  laughter for example. Not the shy ice cream bells giggle of Rachel and Lucy’s family,
  but all of a sudden and surprised like a pile of dishes breaking." Write a simile to
  describe the laughter of one of your family members.
Chapter Eight - Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold
  1. What does Esperanza buy and what could that purchase symbolize? Why doesn’t
     the old man sell the music box? What could it symbolize to him?
  Creative Prompt: What do you have that you would never sell? What does it
  symbolize to you? Write a copy change incorporating this information.
Chapter Nine - Meme Ortiz
  1. What does Esperanza remember most about Meme’s house? Why and what could
     it symbolize?
  Creative Prompt: Write a haiku about a memorable "item" of your house or
  neighborhood. You can read interesting haiku and find rules for writing one at
  http://www.toyomasu.com/haiku/.
Chapter Ten - Louie, His Cousin & His Other Cousin

  1. What is Marin's role in the family?
  2. Where did Louie get his car? Why, even though he did something wrong, does the
    reader feel sympathy for him?
  Creative Prompt: Write a brief statement (1-2 paragraphs) that Louie would give
  to the judge to influence his sentencing.
Chapter Eleven - Marin
  1. Describe Marin’s personality. What is her wish? And why is it tragic? Is she or
     isn’t she like Esperanza?
  Creative Prompt: Marin is described as "singing the same song somewhere." Write
  an original refrain for a song that characterizes your dream.
Chapter Twelve - Those Who Don’t
  1. Complete the fragmented title of this chapter. Why are people afraid of
     Esperanza’s neighborhood? Why is Esperanza afraid of other neighborhoods?
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       What causes fears and prejudices?
    Creative Prompt: Write about a time that you felt afraid in another neighborhood.
    Do not write a copy change, but do incorporate carefully chosen details, imagery,
    and syntax to suggest your feelings.
Chapter Thirteen - There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children
She Didn’t Know What To Do
    1. Why are the Vargas kids bad? Did anyone care when Angel fell to his death?
       Why?
    2. The title of this chapter resembles a nursery rhyme - explain how the stories are
       similar and how are they different.
    3. What is Rosa Vargas' life like? What is the solution? Is there fault?
    Creative Prompt: Write about a person you know (a friend, neighbor, etc.) using a
    well-known nursery rhyme to help describe what that person is like. Alternately,
    write a nursery rhyme that describes your family or one that you know in your
    neighborhood.
Chapter Fourteen - Alicia Who Sees Mice
    1. What are Alicia’s responsibilities since her mother died?
    2. Why is she afraid of mice and fathers? What could mice symbolize?
    3. What is not being told in this short story? What can we infer?
    Creative Prompt:     Write a letter to Alicia to make her feel better.
Chapter Fifteen - Darius & the Clouds
    1. "Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky." Where is “here”? And why
       is this (“too much sadness, not enough sky”) so?
    2. What is the theme of this “prose poem”?
    Creative Prompt: Write a prose poem about the simple things we sometimes take
    for granted. Incorporate poetic techniques, like imagery, incomplete syntax, and
    personification.
Chapter Sixteen - And Some More
    1. Why does Lucy say there are only two types of snow?
    2. Who is the speaker of each line? Can you attach a name to each?
    3. Why does Cisneros alternate between kinds of clouds and the names of people?
    4. What is the destructive element involved in this scene?
    Creative Prompt: In this vignette, the names of people turn to imaginative insults.
    Write a list of original insults (minimum 10) that are more inventive than hurtful
    (i.e. cockroach jelly). Then, write a dialogue between two or more fictional
    characters (you may use your own, or well-established ones, like Bart Simpson and

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  Cartman), who get into an argument and call each other these names. Be sure to use
  proper dialogue format!
Chapter Seventeen - The Family of Little Feet
  1. Why does this "Cinderella" fairy tale become dangerous in Esperanza’s
     neighborhood? Find the allusion to another popular fairy tale when the bum talks
     to the girls. Why don’t they complain when the shoes are thrown away?
  2. What is happening in this vignette that is so powerful that the girls want to forget
     that it happened?
  Creative Prompt: Use a popular fairy tale to reference in a mini-story an event in
  your life. The event should surround a moment of growing up too fast. Alternatively,
  look at Anne Sexton’s poems, “Her Kind” and “Cinderella.” Then, write a poem
  using another, similar fairy tale (such as “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty”) to
  reflect upon the theme of sexism in society.
Chapter Eighteen - A Rice Sandwich
  1. Why doesn’t Esperanza’s mother want her to eat at school? What does the nun do
     to Esperanza that makes her cry? Why does the nun do this?
  Creative Prompt: Even though the nun wasn’t "yelling," she hurt Esperanza just as
  badly. Write a letter to someone who made you feel less than worthy without yelling
  at you. In this letter recall the incident and explain to that person how he or she
  made you feel.
Chapter Nineteen - Chanclas

  1.     Why is everyone laughing and having fun at the party except Esperanza? How
         does Esperanza start to have fun? Discuss the difficulties Esperanza faces
         because of her economic situation.
  2.     What is the significance of the last two lines of this vignette?
  Creative Prompt: Think about the concept of Fashion. What part does it play in
  the social sphere of Northern Highlands HS? What happens if you don’t have the
  money to buy those Juicy shirts or Fila sneakers? Create a collage that reflects the
  role of Fashion and its fallout at NHRHS.
Chapter Twenty - Hips
  1. What does she just wake up with one day? What does Rachel say they are good
     for? How does this fit a sexist ideology?
  2. How does Esperanza use Education for a sense of empowerment? And even if she
     is not completely accurate in her statements, why is this a step in the right
     direction for Esperanza?
  3. This is another story in a series about the burgeoning sexuality of the girls. Why
     does the author contrast the talk of developing bodies with the songs of the jump
     rope? What is the purpose of the juxtaposition of these two topics?

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    Creative Prompt: Write a jump rope song about what you wish you get. Use
    Esperanza’s original song for inspiration.
Chapter Twenty-One - The First Job

    1. Why did Esperanza want to work? Why would public school be detrimental to
       Esperanza’s education? What could the pictures represent? And why doesn’t
       Esperanza know where they come from or where they are going?
    2. Which quality of Esperanza's personality shows up while she is at her first job?
       What information do you have from previous stories about Esperanza and other
       women in the book that would account for Esperanza's shyness and reticence?
    Creative Prompt: Write a survival guide or how to guide for Esperanza’s first job
    that might have helped her.
Chapter Twenty-Two - Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark

    1.    Why must Esperanza tell her siblings that can’t play today? What side of
          Esperanza’s personality do we see in this chapter?
    2.    What phrase does Esperanza use that indicates she feels more an American
          than a Mexican?
    Creative Prompt: Write an obituary for Esperanza’s Abuelito (grandfather).
    Reference your local newspaper to see examples.
Chapter Twenty-Three - Born Bad
    1. What was wrong with Guadalupe? What are the lessons Esperanza learns about
       disease, her dreams, writing, and death? Discuss the meaning of Esperanza’s
       poem.
    Creative Prompt: Write a last will and testament for Guadalupe. Remember she
    doesn’t have a lot of belongings, but imagine what she could have. "I leave _______
    for ________, because or to show___________."
Chapter Twenty-Four - Elenita, Cards, Palm, Water

    1.    What is the symbolism in Esperanza’s choice not to watch TV, but to stay and
          have her cards read? What does she learn about her future home? And why is
          it important that she learns this?
    2.    Is there anything in the story to indicate that Esperanza is still a little girl?
    Creative Prompt: Draw a tarot card that shows Esperanza’s future home. Research
    the Internet for pictures of Tarot cards. The following is a useful site:
    http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/tarota.html. (Search the different decks for a style
    that suites you.)
Chapter Twenty-Five - Geraldo No Last Name
    1. What happens to Geraldo?

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  2. Why does Marin wait at the hospital? Why didn’t the surgeon come? Why does
     she use the derogatory term "wet-back?" What effect does this have? Why is his
     story so important to know?
  3. If Marin did not know Geraldo very well, if she did not even know his last name,
     then how does she know about his life?
  4. Who else has no last name in the story? Why is this so?
  5. The use of an anonymous character is a popular technique used by writers. If the
     character can be anyone, then the character can also be the reader. Giving a
     character a sense of universality is important when the writer wants to impress
     her theme on the reader. Is Geraldo like you? If you think the answer is “No,”
     please think about whether or not you carry any identification with you when you
     go out. If you were hurt and unable to communicate, would strangers be able to
     tell who you were? Would you even have a first name?
  Creative Prompt: Use graffiti to give Geraldo a last name and a story. Look at
  some graffiti on the Internet: http://www.graffiti.org/ Make sure you look at
  sketches and pictures. (Notice that some graffiti incorporates pictures; this option is
  up to you.)
Chapter Twenty-Six - Edna’s Ruthie
  1. What do you think is wrong with Ruthie and why? Use evidence from the book to
     support.
  2. Why can’t Ruthie be all the things she could have been? What might the last line
     of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" symbolize?
  Creative Prompt: Write psychiatrist notes for a session with Ruthie and you, her
  doctor. See an actual example:
  http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/080366tx-shoot.html
Chapter Twenty-Seven - The Earl of Tennessee
  1. Here is a case where the observant reader is smarter than the narrator. What
     kind of a narrator is Esperanza, therefore? Explain the last paragraph of this
     vignette. Earl works at night. Why does his “wife” look different to everyone and
     “never stay long”?
  Creative Prompt: If Earl had a car, design a bumper sticker that he would be
  proud to display. Briefly explain your design and its relevance to Earl. You can find
  some examples of bumper stickers on the Internet at
  http://www.internetbumperstickers.com/.
Chapter Twenty-Eight - Sire

  1.     Who was Sire? What did Esperanza do differently than other girls when she
         walked by him? Why did she do this?
  2.     In one ear, Esperanza hears her mother's voice which says that "those girls are
         the ones that go into alleys." Esperanza also wonders where Sire takes Lois
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          and what happens there. What is the conflict that Esperanza is in? Would you
          describe the conflict as Esperanza against another person, against herself,
          against nature, or against society? Who out there could make a case for all
          four?
    Creative Prompt: Turn this chapter into a “found poem.” Use select words and
    phrases, rearrange their order (if you want). Think of this as magnetic poetry - you
    can only use the words & phrases on the page. You can find an explanation and
    examples of found poetry at http://www.foundpoetry.org/blog/.
Chapter Twenty-Nine - Four Skinny Trees
    1. Why does Esperanza relate to the trees? This chapter is all about symbolism!
       Find and explain all the symbols. What do the trees teach her? And what does
       this show about Esperanza's future?
    Creative Prompt: Design a tattoo that you think symbolizes something about you.
    Briefly explain what the tattoo means to you and where you would wear it. Would
    everyone get to see it? Would it be personal and private, only for you to know about?
    You can see some flash tattoo art at http://tattoo-art.com/catalog/.
Chapter Thirty - No Speak English
    1. What difficulties arise for Mamacita when moving to Mango Street? How are her
       troubles similar to others in this chapter? Why does she become upset when the
       baby boy begins to sing the Pepsi commercial? What does she feel like she is
       losing? And what has she lost?
    Creative Prompt: Imagine you had to move to another country because your
    family was moving there. Your family moves before you and knows the language;
    then you arrive. Write a brief, but telling, story of your struggles and desires to
    return home - like Mamacita's story. What would you miss?
Chapter Thirty-One - Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut and Papaya Juice on
Tuesdays
    1. Why is Rafaela getting old? What does she wish she could do? Why can't she?
    2. Compare Rafaela to Marin. Why does this seem to be the common condition of
       women on Mango Street?
    Creative Prompt: Write a persuasive paragraph to the women of Mango Street.
    Try to convince them that there is more to life. Remember that they may be in a
    different situation than yourself, so take that into consideration when you construct
    your argument.
Chapter Thirty-Two - Sally
    1. Sally is yet another person from Esperanza's neighborhood. Describe Sally and
       the difficulties in her life. What does Esperanza wish for Sally? Why does she
       wish these specific things?
    Creative Prompt: Write a dialogue between Sally and her father. He has just
    caught her coming out of school dressed differently than the way she left the house.
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Chapter Thirty-Three - Minerva Writes Poems
  1. Minerva's life could be the future life of which character?
  2. What is the matter in Minerva's relationship? Why does Minvera write poems?
     What does Esperanza learn from Minerva about abuse and about poetry?
  3. Esperanza says she can't do anything for Minerva, but is she doing something
     already?
  Creative Prompt:     Compose a poem that Minerva might have written and squeezed
  in her hand.
Chapter Thirty-Four - Bums in the Attic
  1. Of what is Esperanza getting tired? Why doesn't she go out with her family
     anymore? How is this vignette adding to the ongoing theme of maturation?
  2. When Esperanza owns her own home, whom won't she forget? Explain if this is
     true. Remember that this novel is loosely based on her real life.
  Creative Prompt: Esperanza talks about the people on the hill, who live close to
  the stars. Write a letter from Esperanza to the people on the hill.
Chapter Thirty-Five - Beautiful and Cruel
  1. How are Esperanza and her sister thinking differently than Minerva and other
     women? How does Esperanza challenge strictly defined gender roles?
  Creative Prompt:     Draw an image / create a collage of Esperanza breaking
  traditions.
Chapter Thirty-Six - A Smart Cookie

  1. What are the different ways that Esperanza's mother is smart? Why couldn't she
     ever be "somebody?"
  2. Here we have another cautionary tale and this one is told to Esperanza by her
     mother. Esperanza's mother warns her about refraining from participating in life
     because of shame. Refraining from life will only perpetuate the shame is her
     lesson. Explain the significance of the last sentence: "I was a smart cookie then."
  Creative Prompt: Write a resume for Esperanza's mother. Sample resume:
  http://www.career-resumes.com/sample3.html
Chapter Thirty-Seven - What Sally Said
  1. What situation does Sally have to deal with? What does Sally say? How and why
     does she cover up certain incidents? Why does she go back?
  Creative Prompt: Research a single story or general issues of child abuse and write
  a report recounting the story, or a factual list of occurrences and other information.
  Child abuse stats: http://www.ncvc.org/stats/ca_csa.htm
Chapter Thirty-Eight - The Monkey Garden

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  1. First we have a garden. Could this be an allusion to another garden? What
     famous gardens do you know?
  2. Next we have a description of the garden that the children take over. Describe it
     when they first have it. What happens to the garden as time goes on?
  3. The plot of this chapter is about a garden, but a good story is always about
     something other than the plot. If this story is about something more, then what
     might the garden be all about? (This will speak to the theme of the story.)
  4. On page 96, Esperanza tells the reader that this was a place she wanted to die and
     where she tried to die. She indicates that this would be the last day she would be
     in the garden. Therefore the events that follow this must be significant. You are
     being told to pay attention. Will you? Following this attention getting paragraph,
     Esperanza asks, "Who was it that said I was getting too old to play the games?" If
     this immediately follows the attention getting paragraph, this question might be
     important. Again, what is the story about?
  5. Esperanza witnesses some interplay between Sally and Tito and the boys.
     Esperanza becomes angry in a way that seems out of proportion to what is
     happening. The action between Sally and the boys must represent something
     more important to Esperanza. What is it?
  6. Esperanza can not explain her anger and her desire to save Sally from the boys.
     Can you?
  7. Afterward Esperanza is embarrassed and upset. She wanted to be dead. Did she
     die? Is there any way you could think to explain that a part of her died that day?
     What part might it be and how did it happen?
  8. Consider: “I looked at my feet in their white socks and ugly round shoes. They
     seemed far away. They didn't seem to be my feet anymore. And the garden that
     had been such a good place to play didn't seem mine either” (98). A symbol is an
     object that represents a significantly more complex idea. Think about the shoes
     Esperanza is referring to. She mentions them in "Chanclas." In this story, what do
     the shoes symbolize and why do they no longer seem to be her feet anymore?
  Creative Prompt: Do some research on famous Mexican artists like Jose Clemente
  Orozco, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera. Then, create a poster in a similar style
  (bright colors, flattened images, etc.) that incorporates the imagery and the
  sensations associated with the Monkey Garden episode.
Chapter Thirty-Nine - Red Clowns
  1. What happened to Esperanza in this chapter? How does thus disturbing tale fit
     well with the sights and sound of the carnival?
  Creative Prompt: Create a poem from the words in this chapter to convey the
  emotional impact of this tragic event.
Chapter Forty - Linoleum Roses
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  1. What or who was Sally trying to escape? Why does Sally like being married? How
     old is she? What isn't she allowed to do? What kind of life is she living with her
     husband? Does owning all those "things" make her happy? The image of a
     window reappears throughout the novel. Women are usually seen staring out it.
     What could the window symbolize to these women and why/how?
  Creative Prompt: Write some lyrics to a folk song that reflect Sally’s situation.
  You might look at Suzanne Vega’s “My Name is Luca”
  (http://www.lyricstime.com/suzanne-vega-my-name-is-luca-lyrics.html) for
  inspiration.
Chapter Forty-One - The Three Sisters
  1. What did Esperanza wish for? What did the three sisters tell her to do? Why is
     this advice so important? Does she follow their advice? How do you know this?
     How is her way of coming back helping the other people in this book?
  Creative Prompt: Write an imaginary dialogue between Esperanza 20 years from
  now, returning to Mango Street and encountering one of her old neighbors.
Chapter Forty-Two - Alicia & I Talking on Edna's Steps
  1. What does Alicia teach Esperanza about Mango Street? Why does Esperanza
     think that the mayor coming to Mango Street is laughable? Who is going to
     change Mango Street?
  Creative Prompt: Esperanza lives at "4006 Mango." Write an urban legend or
  folklore type tale about her house. For inspiration, look at the Weird N.J. web site at
  http://www.weirdnj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=4&Ite
  mid=28.
Chapter Forty-Three - A House of My Own
  1. Esperanza describes her dream house; what is it like? Compare this house to the
     house she dreamed of in chapter one. What is the main difference? (Hint: It’s the
     use of one word.) She also compares a blank sheet of paper and the process of
     writing to her future home. How are these two ideas dependent on each other?
  Creative Prompt: Imagine Esperanza's future home. Describe one room, in great
  detail. Try to include emotion in the inanimate objects. You might, for example, use
  personification or another type of descriptive language that appeals to the reader’s
  senses.
Chapter Forty-Four - Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes
  1. Why is the last chapter similar to the first? What effect does Cisneros create by
     writing like this? What knowledge does Esperanza now have that makes this
     chapter different than the first? Will Esperanza escape? What will her avenue of
     escape be? What happens when she writes?
  Creative Prompt: Draw a circle diagram, pinpointing the key points in Esperanza's
  life---the moments where she grew, or learned a hard lesson, or came to a profound
  conclusion.

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