Childhood: In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Focusing on a single novel or play, explain how its representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole. Throughout the novel, The House on Mango Street a girl named Esperanza goes through many different changes as she tries discovering her true self. She evolves from insecure and not knowing anything about herself into confident and knowing where she wants her life to take her.
That children must go through the experience of growing out of an innocent child into finding themselves as a person and finally developing self-confidence is highlighted in the book. At first, Esperanza starts out young, insecure, and immature. Her immaturity shows apparent when she talks about her mom holding her and says, “sweet to put your nose into when she is holding you and you feel safe” (6-7). This shows Esperanza’s insecurity because her mom remains a big source of comfort to her. She feels nice and safe all the time because her mom will act as a protection for her.
In addition, Esperanza’s immaturity shows when she claims, “They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake” (28). This emphasizes how defensive and protective Esperanza reacts towards her neighborhood by calling them stupid when that’s just how they act. She does not try to understand their point of view. Though Esperanza maintains these characteristics, the reader will soon see her slight yet palpable maturity. As Esperanza develops as a person, she goes through another phase where she remains young and immature; however, she starts to show obvious signs of maturity and growing up.
When Esperanza stands up for her sister she states, “That’s right, I add before Lucy of Rachel can make fun of her” she proves her maturity, because she thinks of others like her sister, Nenny (50). She does the right thing instead of caring about what her friends think about her. She takes on more and more responsibilities as she grows up. As she progresses, she shows hints of growing up physically and mentally, but not completely. When a group of her and her friends try heels, she says, “yes, it’s true. We have legs. Skinny and spotted with satin scars where scabs were picked, but legs, all our own, good to look at, and long” (40).
They all realize that they finally have entered the first stage of growing up when they notice their slightly more womanly, adult figures. The long legs show their slight maturity, but their scars and scabs show that they still remain young. Even though the changes might only be slight they remain changes which continue to come as she grows older and finds her place in the world. Towards the end of the novel, Esperanza finally grows up and becomes self-confident. When Esperanza runs away from the “Monkey Garden”, she’s forced to grow up. “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). The play place that was once so innocent now, a junkyard reciprocates Esperanza’s innocence that slowly turns into reality. She is growing up. Additionally, she gains enough confidence and maturity to make her own life decisions, shown when she makes the important decision of where she wants her life to take her. She states, “I have decided not to grow up tame like the others who lay their necks on the threshold waiting for the ball and chain” showing Esperanza’s maturity to make her own life choices by herself (88).
She finally becomes confident and independent enough to know where she wants her life to take her. Esperanza finally completes her evolution from young and immature to adult-like and confident. House on Mango Street allows children to see that they will have to grow up one way or another. People might try to experience being an adult then decide to take a step back to ignore it but, there remains no way to avoid it. Life won’t always be easy, but in the end people will discover who they are and what purpose they have in life.