Thursday, November 30, 2006

Innocence Mixed with Hard Experiences

In Esperanza, Cisneros is able to combine a childlike innocence with a real knowledge of what is going on in her neighborhood. The shift back and forth is rapid and seamless, to the point where the reader must wonder at some junctures whether it is Esperanza or Cisneros speaking. The innocence Esperanza displays with regards to men is relatively normal for a girl her age, especially with regards to her, Lucy and Rachel playing dress-up in high heels. However, the beginning of that vignette’s final paragraph, “We are tired of being beautiful” (42), reveals a serious fear for young women in the city. Looking desirable can be dangerous, if proper precaution is not taken. It is a young age for Esperanza to already be learning that.
The descriptions of the sadness in Esperanza’s life also illuminate this struggle between innocence and hard experiences. When Esperanza speaks of her Aunt Lupe, her characterization of the randomness of life is perfect: “But I think diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger, just anyone” (59). The injustice of this life has already dawned on the narrator, further exemplified by her condemnation of Mango Street: “Only thing I can’t understand is why Ruthie is living on Mango Street if she doesn’t have to” (69). Esperanza knows how undesirable her house is, from the two nuns’ characterizations of her area, but to think that no other human being should choose Mango Street further highlights the helplessness of her situation.
While these laments may be originated in the grown-up Cisneros, I was left wondering if these insights were simply the result of extreme experiences at young ages. When pain strikes your life early and often, such descriptions are ways of coping, of searching for words to try to understand the pain. It made me think of how many young men at St. Ignatius are also experiencing such pains. Will these experiences spur them on and make them more brilliant, helping them to change the city? Or will the pain destroy them? It is a tough reality to ponder for these young men with so much potential.