The House on Mango Street

We are all affected by cultural standards that our own society imposes to us as what is perceive to be normal and acceptable. In United States, the American Dream- the dream of success, wealth and power all rolled up into one influences many people especially in the minds of the immigrants who perpetually believe that they can get a piece of the so-called American dream. In the short story, the House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros reveals the theme of illusion vs. reality conflicting with one another through images and the setting of the story.

We continuously wage war when it comes to dealing with the complexities of life. It is easy to succumb to the illusion or to dream of becoming rich, having a beautiful home and experiencing all of the good things in life. The author brings to light images in the story that exemplifies the recurring need for the main character to escape the hardship of her reality. The images of poverty could be seen as a part of the character’s everyday life. "The water pipes broke and the landlord wouldn’t fix them because the house was too old...We were using the washroom next door and carrying water over in empty milk cartons (Cisneros p. 122)." Within the confines of destitution, the character lives on the illusion of someday she will have the beautiful home of her own. "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. And our house would have running water, and pipes that worked. The character constantly reflects on the illusion, the image of that one lottery ticket could be her chance that someday she will be rescued from the restrictions of deprivation. "This was the house Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket. Our house would be white with big trees around it. This was the house Mama dreamed up on the stories she told us before going to bed."

Regardless of how much we love to be suspended in a dreamlike state, reality always comes crawling back. The author describes the setting in the story as small, crowded, unappealing to the one’s eyes. The character and her family moved out of Loomis street to Mango Street, had to face harsh reality of her young impressionable life. " The house on Mango Street is ours and we don’t have to pay rent to anybody. But even so, it’s not the house we’d thought we’d get...The house on Mango street is not the way they told it at all. It’s small and red with tight little steps in front and the windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath." The setting describing her new home in Mango Street inflicts a feeling of being cramped and uncomfortable. The setting promotes the reality of the character’s real everyday life. The small windows, the tight steps express the character’s feeling of entrapment. The house personifies her prison-like setting of being trapped in the realms of poverty. The setting of being cramped in a crowded prison is the same as when she describes her family of six. "Each time it seemed there’d be one more of us. Everybody had to share a bedroom-Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny." The setting that depicts the lack of space is the invisible barrier- the same obstacle that keeps the character’s family trapped in the incarceration of a poor life.

As we face the hardships of life, it is human nature to let our imagination to run its course. Sometimes it is better let our dreams linger enough for us live our illusions longer and longer. Although, the adversity that we face everyday keeps us grounded and enable us to accept our current situations. Just like the character of Cisneros, there is a relentless battle between the character’s dream of one day owning her dream house with enough washrooms, running water, real stairs, and a big yard with trees compared to the bricks crumbling, swollen door, tiny window and one washroom of her current home. We cannot blame her wishful thinking. Being trapped in the state of