Ethnic Identity of Women in House on Mango Street and Woman Hollering Creek
The novels The House on Mango Street (Cisneros 1984) and Woman Hollering Creek (Cisneros 1992) relate the new American through the eyes of Cisneros. The women in both novels are caught in the middle of their ethnic identity and their American identity, thus creating the "New American." Cisneros moved between Mexico and the United States often while growing up, thus making her feel "homeless and displaced" (Jones and Jorgenson 109).
The House on Mango Street characterizes a community of girls and women restricted in their movements within the barrio. The roles of these girls and women are translated through the eyes of a child. When women in the barrio are confined, they can become a victim of abuse due to male domination. Women are confined to interior spaces in addition to their domestic roles as daughters, wives, and mothers. They live inside the barrio, but desire to escape and live outside the barrio. In addition, women can escape their restricted lifestyle by receiving an education. Esperanza, the child narrator is the only one who escapes this ethnic lifestyle (Mullen 6).
In The House on Mango Street, the vignette "My Name," Esperanza was named after her great grandmother, desires a life outside her interior walls of the barrio. Esperanza’s name means hope in English, while it means sadness and waiting in Spanish. Her great grandmother was wild as a young lady, but was tamed by her Mexican husband. Cisneros states, "She looked out her window her whole life, the way so many women sit with sadness on an elbow . . . I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window" (11). Esperanza is proud of her namesake, although she does not want to be a "kept" woman, that is, confined inside her home. She disagrees with the relationship between the name and the Mexican males’ suppression of women (Olivares 4).
Similar to Esperanza’s grandmother in The House on Mango Street, Rafaela in the vignette, "Rafaela Who Drinks Coconut and Papaya Juice on Tuesdays" desires freedom outside the barrio. While her husband is out playing dominoes, she is locked inside. Her husband believes she is too beautiful and is fearful that she will run away. Rafaela dreams of being at the dance hall down the street enjoying life with the other women (Cisneros 79-80).
Furthermore, the desire to explore their American identity for freedom outside the barrio is also expressed in various vignettes. In addition to Rafaela, Marin" is a vignette about a girl with the same name who is about to be sent back to Puerto Rico because of her beauty. She is not allowed outside until her aunt is home and then she is only allowed in the front yard. Marin loves makeup and dressing nicely. She would like to work where she could dress professionally, perhaps downtown. If she could work downtown, her possibilities are greater that she would meet someone, marry, and move...