Sunday, 17 July 2011

Motifs in The House on Mango Street.

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What makes a story into a great novel? There are many different factors that go into a story to turn it into a well known novel. One of these factors are motifs. A motif is a reoccuring theme throughout the story. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, had many different motifs that helped to make it a very popular story today. These motifs helped to give the reader a better sense of what was going on in the story and a better view of how the characters in the story felt. These are the reasons that motifs are important in any story; without them, it just wouldn’t be nearly as good. The three motifs that have the most significance in The House on Mango Street are shoes and feet, houses and homes, and names.

The first significant motif is shoes and feet. Throughout the story, shoes or feet are described to show someones status in the neighborhood. Two examples of this are when Esperanza is describing her family members’ feet. “His feet were fat and doughy like thick tomales” (Cisneros ). “Mother’s feet, plump and polite, descended like white pigeons from the sea of pillow” (Cisneros 40). By just describing their feet, the reader can get a sense of what they might look like as a whole. This is a unique way the author uses to describe a person. Another quote about shoes and feet are when Esperanza and her friends found some new shoes. “The lemon shoes for the red shoes, the red for the pair that were once white” (Cisneros 40). This quote was leading into the feet that shoes were used as a status symbol by the reactions that was presented to them from people around the neighborhood.

The motif of shoes and feet is very significant to this story. Sandy Cisneros at times used shoes or feet as a way of status. When she is describing Esperanza’s families’ feet, it gives the reader a sense of how they might act. It also lets the reader try to imagine what a person with those type of feet might look like. Another example of how she uses feet as a status symbol is when Esperanza and her friends find some shoes. By putting them on, they feel older. When they are walking in the shoes, they are even told not to wear them because of what it makes them out to be. Old bums in the neighborhood even spot these shoes on the young girls and get the wrong impression on them. These reasons are why shoes and feet make up an important motif in The House on Mango Street.

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The next significant motif in the story is houses and homes. Esperanza often refers to homes because it is something she dreams to achieve on her own. Two examples of this is when she is talking about her previous places of residence. “Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor” (Cisneros ). “The house on Mango Street is ours” (Cisneros ). These two quotes are examples of how Esperanza has had to move in her lifetime and haven’t ever had a permanent home in her childhood. This is important because it shows a motive to try and achieve a permanent home. The last quote kind of shows how Esperanza always wanted a nice place to call her home. “They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours forever” (Cisneros 4). This quote shows how the dream of a perfect house lives in Esperanza throughout the story.

The motif of houses and homes is very important to the story. Having moved in her childhood, Esperanza dreams of one day having the perfect home. It seems the story is somewhat based on just that fact. Throughout the story Esperanza describes many of the people she has come to know in the neighborhood’s homes. This lets the reader get a feel for what the neighborhood is like. All of these factor lead to Esperanza wanting to have a house of her own.

The last significant motif in The House on Mango Street is names. Names are a very common theme found in this story. Coming from a Mexican heritage, Esperanza’s name has a special story. The first quote is when Esperanza was talking about how she received it from her grandma. “I have inherited her name” (Cisneros 11). Then she tells what her name means. “But in Spanish my name is softer. Something like silver, not quite as thick as my sister’s name” (Cisneros). This quote shows some of the background Esperanza and her neighbors come from. Another quote that describes a name is; “Her name was Guadalupe and she was pretty like no other” (Cisneros).

The names motif was also very important to this story. Sandy Cisneros uses names to help give background information at times. The majority of the names said throughout the story come from a Spanish or Mexican background. This gives the reader a sense of what kind of people live in her neighborhood. Esperanza also recognizes the struggles that much of her people have had in the past. She struggles to try and over come her family’s history and become what she wants to become.

The House on Mango Street has three major motifs in it shoes and feet, houses and homes, and names. There are many other motifs in this story but these three are the most common and the most significant. The shoes and feet motif is significant because Sandy Cisneros uses them to represent status in Esperanza’s community. The houses and homes motif is significant because it shows some of Esperanza’s past, some of her present, and what she hopes to become of the future. Finally, the names motif is important because by just saying names give the reader background information on that person. All of these factors have combined into an extremely powerful and moving story by Sandy Cisneros. The motifs give a background of where the author comes from and the struggles she has had to over come.

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