"The House On Mango Street" By Sandra Cisneros Compared To "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" By Maya Angelou

2462 words - 10 pages

Sandra Cisneros has spent a lifetime trying to discover her own literary voice, only to be drowned out by the mostly white and mostly white voices that she imitated but never identified with. The only daughter in a family with six sons, Cisneros was often the "odd-woman-out-forever" early on in life. It was not until she was enrolled in the Iowa Writers Workshop that she finally discovered that her experience as a woman and a Chicana in a male dominated world was the voice that was uniquely hers. Cisneros was influenced by her family's constant travels between Mexico and Chicago. Cisneros never had the opportunity to make friends since she was seldom in one place for very long, nor did she have any sisters to confide and identify with. When her family finally settled in a small red house in Chicago, Cisneros had a home and a sense of permanence that she had previously never known. But it was not the house she had dreamed of nor been promised by her father. She had always thought of a house with a green lawn, white picket fence, and a bathroom for every person. Instead she got a decaying bungalow in an impoverished inner-city neighborhood. It was this house that inspired her first and most successful novel, The House on Mango Street. Cisneros' writing has been shaped by her experiences, which have given her a perspective and voice very different from traditional American writers, such as Poe, Thoreau, and Emerson. These are the writers that have helped comprise the literary cannon of the United States for nearly two hundred years. She has something to say that they do not know about. The House on Mango Street is an elegant literary piece, somewhere between fiction and poetry, that explores issues that are important to her: feminism, love, oppression, and religion.The House on Mango Street reads more as poetry than as a narrative. This is accomplished through the liberal use of color throughout the vignettes. Nearly every passage in this book contains reference to color. Specifically then, it is the symbolic use of color that defines this novel. Even the title of the book brings to mind the ripe color of a mango. It is interesting that she chose Mango Street for the setting. A mango tree is a tropical evergreen cultivated for its edible fruit, which has a smooth rind and sweet, juicy, yellow-orange flesh. In much the same way, Esperanza is the young tree, waiting to mature and be cultivated. She too will eventually get to show brighter colors. "They are the only ones who understand me. I am the only one who understands them. Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here" (Cisneros). Esperanza and Cisneros both identify themselves as young immature trees, that cannot be understood until they grow fruit. The use of color serves a dual symbolic purpose. The barrios that Cisneros and her title character, Esperanza, live in are usually gray and void of any other color. As children, they had...

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