Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Writing to Remain Free

In the chapter "Born Bad" of the novel The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Esperanza reads her sick aunt a poem that she wrote, and her aunt responds: "That's nice. That's very good, she said in her tired voice. You just remember to keep writing, Esperanza. You must keep writing. It will keep you free, and I said yes, but at that time I didn't know what she meant." (61). Throughout the novel, Esperanza is digusted by her surroudings, embarassed to live in her family's house on Mango Street. She is constantly seeking a way to grow up and out, to become an independent woman. Without even knowing, she finds that in writing, which comes naturally to her. Her ability to interpret her world and express her insights is the power she needs to live her dream.

The final chapter in Edwidge Danticat's Krik? Krak! is very similar because the narrator, addressing a second person, reveals the power in writing, especially for women. Written expression is a way for women to express power without yielding a club or being too visible; it's a secret, self-satisfying power that can also be therapeutic. "And writing? Writing was as forbidden as dark rouge on the cheeks or a first date before eighteen. It was an act of indolence, something to be done in a corner when you could have been learning to cook." (219). In Esperanza's case, so much is made forbidden to her by her parents and her culture. Everything seems that much more appealing because it is sinful or inappropriate. Writing is a productive way for both characters to rebel against their cultural norms.

At the end of The House on Mango Street, Esperanza finally understands what her aunt meant. "I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much. I write it down and Mango says goodbye sometimes. She does not hold me with both arms. She sets me free." (110). Esperanza realizes that this power of hers allows her the ability to let go of Mango Street without really letting go of it. By writing about it, she is able to distance herself from it but also commemorate it in a way. With Mango Street, it's a love/hate relationship. A writer always finds it difficult to show writing to close relatives and friends because these people might identify the aspects of the writing that are true to life. These people, "They will not know I have gone away to come back." (110). Esperanza both satisfies her own needs and her need to help her people.