Thursday, November 30, 2006

Home Sweet Home

As we discussed in class, structurally, Sandra Cisneros’ novel The House on Mango Street is extremely complex under a deceptively simple surface. As we grow older, we view these details through the jaded lens of an experienced adult. That is perhaps why this book of vignettes is so celebrated; it allows its readers to return to the unassuming, naïve view of a child, and watch how the perceptions of experiences change and evolve over time, as a product of a seasoned and affected adult nature. I was absolutely touched by the exchange of the Esperanza and the beautifully described three old sisters, “when you leave, you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are”(105). Concisely and eloquently put, that is the essence of what I have learned in this class this semester through literature, discussion, and experience: the city affects you, just as you affect the city. This includes everyone. The details that shaped the identity of the city for you lie in these little exchanges; a conversation with strangers, a gathering of the community (at the baby’s funeral), a recognition of what “home” means to you. Though Esperanza may be ashamed of the building on Mango Street where her family resides, that does not make it any less her home, or a part of her that has affected and will continue to affect her, just as she has affected it.
At the time Esperanza was told that by the sisters, she has trouble understanding its meaning. She will undoubtedly return to this moment in time again as an adult, and understand its significance as if it were occurring all over again, with an illuminated understanding of what exactly they meant. As Cisneros puts it, “a story is like a Giacometti sculpture; the further you get away from it, the clearer you can see it”. The sisters press her to remember the responsibility she has to her neighborhood. Esperanza was extremely embarrassed of the house on Mango Street, and thus attempted to admonish its importance, and even existence. But the very fact that the stories of her childhood in this novel center on the people she met and the things she saw while living on Mango Street illustrate its significance, rather than the structure that served as her house.
I think that the novel subtly emphasizes the power of the decisions we make, the places we go, the people we meet, and the things we know to shape our existence—without de-emphasizing the power we have within ourselves to affect how those experiences will shape us. The past three years in Baltimore have taught me much more than I think I will ever know; I have grown in ways I am acutely aware of, and ways that I will perhaps never fully realize. Later in life, I’ll reflect on little exchanges, like the one between Esperanza and the three sisters, that I perhaps did not fully grasp at the time, but can come to appreciate. But I do understand the responsibility I have to the city as a product of the knowledge I have gained about it, and I know the importance of remembering this connection, and the implications of an active Jesuit education that will remain with me forever.