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The House On Mango Street

Overcoming Predetermined Lifestyles

by Nina Laney

My group's topic was a thematic interpretation of the book The House On Mango Street.  My sub-topic under that was overcoming predetermined lifestyles, how the book portrays that through Esperanza, how she accomplishes this, and what it is exactly, how it might apply to us.

When I talk about overcoming predetermined lifestyles, I mean being a discrepancy after generations and generations that have been one way, or being a discrepancy in those around you.  For example, if your whole family, your aunts, cousins, siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., were all, let's say, doctors, all very successful, prominent, rich, you would be expected to follow in their footsteps.  However, all you want to be are a beach bum, surf, and maybe own a little tourist shop.  If you were to follow your own will, and be a beach bum, you would be overcoming a predetermined lifestyle.  Another instance would be if your whole family was illiterate, society would expect you to be that way too, never attend college, work as a farmer.  Where as if you were to attend college, and go on to be successful and intelligent, you would be overcoming a predetermined lifestyle.  It's rising above, or falling below, for that matter, what is expected of you.

In The House On Mango Street, Esperanza's goal is to overcome what she is expected to be.  Women are expected to be weak, submissive, dependant housewives, uneducated and without strong opinions or views.  Esperanza dreams of being independent, well-educated, strong and a writer.  She refuses to end up like a housewife, sitting around the house all day like all the women around her on Mango Street.   She wants to break away from her past of weak women and rise above those around her.  Esperanza wants to escape, and dreams of being strong and free.  If she were to accomplish that, she would be overcoming the lifestyle already predetermined for her.  By moving away, not needing to depend on a man to provide for and protect her, by becoming a writer, she overcomes what is expected of women, therefore what is expected of her.

So although overcoming predetermined lifestyles involves many different aspects the main situation dealt with in The House On Mango Street is overcoming poverty, or the role expected of a female in a relationship and her attitude toward the men in her life.  The most prominent case of overcoming predetermined lifestyles in the book is Esperanza, but the book is filled with other examples.  Almost every character, in one way or another, aims at overcoming their current lifestyle.  Some have failed, some will fail, and some will succeed, and I believe that Esperanza is one of them.



by Amy Peterson

Overcoming expectations is a constant theme in  The House on Mango Street. Sandra Cisneros is constantly portraying her main character, Esperanza, as an independent and strong young woman who wants more than anything to overcome the expectations her culture and neighbors have already predetermined for her. Her wishes and dreams mostly surround conquering these expectations. Marriage and the title of " housewife" was the goals that her parents had for her that she wanted most to avoid.

Esperanza watches her young girlfriends and neighbors turn into sad housewives and abused woman. Contrary to the more common outcome, instead of being frightened into marriage, Esperanza fought and then escaped her destiny. As soon as she was old enough, Esperanza moved from her home with determination to make it on her own.

Cisneros’ character is not the only type of the person that overcome expectations. One example could be the successful adult who was not expected to succeed when they younger because of their poor performance in high school and their early adulthood. Colin Powell could fit this description. As a teenager , Colin Powell often was a less than eager student who never really gave any thought to his future. Throughout his adulthood, Powell worked his way to becoming a well known societal and political leader, as well as a high military ranking officer who is respected by the nation.

Other examples of overcoming expectation are all around us. A second example could be a person of a certain race overcoming the expectation predetermined by the discriminating party. Take the case of Rosa Parks as an example. The racist whites expected Parks to move to the back of the bus because of their predetermined racist expectation. Instead, Parks did something completely unexpected and sat in the front of the bus. By doing this simple action, Parks was overcoming the expectation of being intimidated into moving for a Caucasian human being.

In conclusion, in many cases overcoming predetermined expectations has helped the that individual become a better and more respected person. Often in such cases, the individual’s peers have expected the worse, but have seen that individual succeed and perform well. Therefore, overcoming expectations can lead to success and the shaping of a better human being.

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Last updated:  Sunday, March 18, 2001

1998 - Hill, Lara and her English 1 Honors Class