An examination of internal and external characteristics will serve as a means of analyzing the transformation and evolution of Esperanza, the main character in The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. Although the novel was written in 1984, it is a timeless work of fiction that illustrates a coming-of-age journey that students will find believable and real. The House on Mango Street is full of women who are trapped by their husbands, fathers, children, or their own insecurities. Within the vignettes, Cisneros uses a variety of symbols to epitomize and highlight relevant themes. One of the recurring themes that will be flawlessly woven throughout the unit is the window. The symbolic use of the window is used quite often to portray the confinement that various women feel due to family and cultural expectations that have already predetermined their future. A mentor text, students will cite and record examples from the text that illustrate women being hindered by the identity they inherited from their culture, family, and home territory. Students will also cite examples of the expectations that men have for women by identifying whether the expectations are high or low, before defending their opinions with relevant evidence.
Reflection on personal identity will enable students to identify, confront, analyze, and critique gender stereotypes in the core novel. The characters represent an assortment of struggles and past experiences that will naturally foster personal connections and engage students in student-led discussions. Each lesson in this unit will serve as a checkpoint for students to continuously work toward their own concept of what identity is. Connecting the reading to students’ embeddedness in family will help them see the importance of being thankful, despite adversity. Most favorably, students will learn how to give back, beginning with those who have helped them.
Students’ personal connections to the unit will be honored in a reflective essay. Students will use the notes collected in their identity journals to build and defend their final definition of identity. They will use the core novel and at least three supplemental texts to cite relevant evidence. Students will reflect on the following guiding questions in their essay, providing a thorough explanation for each:
- What have you inherited from your parents, close relatives, friends, and school? These things can be tangible or intangible.
- As you grow up, which family expectations will you continue to meet?
- As you grow up, which family expectations will you let go of? Why?
- As you grow up, which cultural traditions will you continue to honor?
- As you grow up, which cultural traditions will you let go of? Why?
- What expectations are more suitable for your current generation to follow?
- What expectations are not suitable for your current generation to follow?
- What advice do you have for the next generation?
The following vignettes from The House on Mango Street are important. Each vignette is directly related to critical lessons to be emphasized consistently throughout the unit. As outlined in the lesson summaries, the vignettes will be followed by activities that will provide connections between the novel and the students’ personal experiences:
Vignette #1: “The House on Mango Street” (3)
Vignette #2: “Boys and Girls” (8)
Vignette #3: “Alicia Who Sees Mice” (31)
Vignette #4: “Born Bad” (59)
Vignette #5: “Sire” (72)
Vignette #6: “Minerva Writes Poems” (84)
Vignette #7: “Beautiful and Cruel” (88)
Vignette #8: “What Sally Said” (92)
Vignette #9: “A House of My Own” (108)
Vignette #10: “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes” (109)