When 'the suppressed voice' is finally heard

The House on Mango Street (1984) written by Sandra Cisneros is one example of contemporary Chicana literature that represents a feminist voice for Mexican-American women. Through the new experimental literary style, she expresses a series of Chicana problems in a male-dominated society, in which people value the idea of ‘machismo’ or the belief that men are superior to women in various aspects.

Although the feminist’s movement has emerged in the US since 1960s as a large group of women has been trying to fight against gender discrimination, it seems only liberal white middle-class women have been able to successfully challenge the power of male supremacy. On the other hand, women of colour, members of ethnic and working class minority, have been excluded from the social mainstream, and their problematic status as ‘the other’ has never evolved. Thus, Mexican-American women have not only struggled for equality with men in their own patriarchal society and the world at large, but they have also tried to find a way to be part of the white-dominated Women’s Movement.

As an ethnic writer from a Mexican-American community, Cisneros does not only create a unique ‘voice’ or what she calls ‘the suppressed voice’ of a Chicana, but she also drives forward a new literary form that is different from the ‘standard’ literary canon of male-writers.

In The House on Mango Street, instead of focusing on the protagonist, Esperanza, and her process of growing from adolescence to adulthood which can generally be found in most coming of age fictions or bildungsroman, Cineros dedicates many vignettes to the lives of other Chicanas on Mango Street through Esperanza’s point of view. As a result, readers can see the development of Esperanza’s self-discovery and self-definition as she narrates along her own stories. Also, her narrations of other female neighbours’ lives show how these powerless women, sharing the same misery in the oppressed society, have a major impact on her perception as a woman growing in a Mexican community. The relationship between Esperanza and these other women helps her, in a dramatic way, to understand herself, and it also motivates her to escape from the Chicano patriarchal society. Additionally, Cisneros’ poetic prose written in fragmentary forms do not only represent the fragmentation of the life of the protagonist who has to search for her identities, but also the way she breaks grammatical rules parallels how Esperanza breaks traditional roles, cultural norms and social expectations of Chicanas.

At the beginning of The House on Mango Street, Cisneros states “A las Mujeres” or “To the Women”, which implies that she dedicates her work to both female readers and Chicana women in Mexican-American society whose lives are portrayed in her fiction. With this assumption in place, Cineros, as a writer, bears in mind that her creativity together with the power of language can free women from the world of silence regardless of their ethnicity.

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
• VINTAGE • 1984


  1. Rose said...
    Great book review. Do you have this book available at Bloom? I would like to read it.
    Bloom * Creative Network said...
    We don't have it right now but we will have it when Bloom 2.0 is ready to go! ;-)

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