House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

"Writing a poem is discovering"

Robert Frost

Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.



About the Author



Beginning Questions: The People on Mango Street

1. Why do you think Cisneros tells the reader about Esperanza's house before she writes about her name? Why is where Esperanza lives more important than who she is?
2. How old do you think Esperanza is? Where in the book does Cisneros suggest her age?
3. Of what is Esperanza ashamed?
4. What do you think makes her cry or angry?

Elements of Literature: House on Mango Street

After reading the first chapter try to identify some of the elements of literature that Sandra Cisneros. Write each element in your notebook with your description next to it.

  • Setting
  • Point of View
  • Mood
  • Style

Main Characters

After reading the first chapter what are the main characters in House on Mango Street? List them in your notebook.

Now read the second and third chapters.
Create a character web (like you did for the characters in Rabbit Proof Fence) for Esperanza.

Cultural Universals House on Mango Street and Latinos

Remember our cultural universals, the traits that all cultures have. Reflect on the film you saw on the Mexican American Experience, the articles you have read on Latinos in the United States today and your knowledge of Mexican American History. Now think of the stories you have read about life on Mango Street, about the people that surround Esperanza and the experiences she has had. Create a list of all the cultural universals for the culture that Esperanza lives in and a list of the cultural universals for Mexican Americans in the United States today.

Themes of All Novels: The Human Condition

There are certain themes that are universal to all novels; these are the themes of the human condition or the things that all humans face at some point in their lives. Although not all these themes are addressed in each novel, a few always are.
Read through the themes below. Which themes does House on Mango Street address? Find examples (quotes) in the novel that show or represent at least three of the following themes and fill out the chart with your examples. Make sure to explain how your quote represents the theme. You should have a total of six examples (and at least three themes).

· Love
· Hate
· Journeys- Escaping, Going Away, Coming Back
· Struggles
· Ambition
· Identity- Sense of Belonging

Chapter Questions

Questions for Chapter 1 of House on Mango Street

1. What is the point of view of this book?
2. The last sentence in this chapter is, “But I know how those things go.” What does it mean? What does it tell you about the book’s narrator?
3. What kind of feeling do you get from the word “there” on page 5? How does the nun see the house? How does she feel about the house?

Chapter Questions for Chapters 5-9

Cathy Queen of Cats (pages 12-13)

  1. What do you learn about Esperanza’s neighborhood from the four paragraphs in this chapter?
  2. Write a quote from this chapter that shows how prejudice and events made it hard growing up as a Latina (someone who is Hispanic) for Esperanza.

Our Good Day (pages 14-16)

  1. What is the mood of the chapter?
  2. Make a list of the upbeat words and phrases from this chapter.

Laughter (pages 17-18)

  1. What is the special bond between Esperanza and Nenny?
  2. Do you have anyone who you share something special with or have a special bond with?

Gil’s Furniture Bought and Sold

  1. Why do you think Esperanza has to pretend she does not care about the music box?
  2. What images or impression do you get from Esperanza’s description of how the music box sounds, “it like all of a sudden he let go a million moths all over the dusty furniture and swan-neck shadows and in our bones. It’s like drops of water. Or like marimbas only with a fumy little plucked sound to it like if you were running your fingers across the teeth of a metal comb.” (P.20)

Meme Ortiz
  1. “Out front there are twenty-one steps, all lopsided and jutting like crooked teeth” is an example of what types of figures of speech?
  2. Why do you think Sandra Cisneros does not comment or explain more about the First Annual Tarzan Jumping Contest?

Alicia Who Sees Mice
  1. Why is Alicia tired all the time?
  2. Why do you think she fears her father?
  3. How do you think her father might limit or restrict her?
  4. What do you think Alicia is trying to overcome or accomplish?
Darius & the Clouds
Journal response- (this means write a few paragraphs at least)
Describe a kid who is smart but does not do well in school. What is she or he like? How do teachers and other students treat him or her? How does she or he feel? Why do you think they do not do well in school even though they are smart?

And Some More
Review dialogue punctuation in the Literature book on page 774.
Then take the first twelve lines of the chapter and re-write them using proper dialogue punctuation. Make sure to use quotes, commas and tell who is saying what.

The Family of Little Feet
  1. Why do you think Mr. Benny says, “Them are dangerous, he says. You girls too young to be wearing shoes like that. Take them shoes off before I call the cops, but we just run”? (p. 41)
  2. What does this chapter tell you about what is happening to Esperanza?
  3. What are the consequences or dangers of growing up?
  4. Do you think Esperanza is ready yet?

“A Rice Sandwich

1. Why does Esperanza want to eat in the canteen? Why does she think it will be better than eating at home?
2. How does Esperanza convince her mother to allow her to eat in the canteen?
3. Why did Esperanza say that the house was hers when it wasn’t?
4. Once again Esperanza endures a humiliating experience. How is the experience with the nun in this chapter similar to the experience in chapter one? Why does Esperanza lie about her home?
5. What did she learn from this experience?
6. Why do you think this chapter titled “The Rice Sandwich?” Would another title be more appropriate?


Poems like films and literature have a particular form and purpose. A poet, like a director or writer, chooses special techniques to get across images, sounds and a message or theme.

The House on Mango Street
contains many small poems and references to poems, which emphasize the importance of language to Esperanza and her neighbors. The poems are actual poems that Esperanza writes and simple, internal rhymes within the text. The abundance of poetry suggests that the women and girls on Mango Street try to make their lives better by describing the world with beautiful language. The novel itself, with its many internal rhymes, is in some ways Esperanza’s long poem, her attempt to make some of the unpoetic aspects of her life less hard and more ordered through poetry.

Techniques used in Poetry- make sure to write the definition and give an example for each.


The way, in which something is said, done, expressed or performed

Within House on Mango Street Cisneros uses certain methods and techniques to express herself which helps to create a certain STYLE

Think Pair Share: House on Mango Street is written in a very special style. When you hear it read out loud what does it sound like to you?
How would you describe the style of House on Mango Street?

One of the ways that authors, such as Cisneros, help to create style is by using figures of speech within their writing.

Figures of Speech


Find a poem in a book or on the internet that you like and that uses at least one of the techniques of poetry and one of the figures of speech we have learned about.

Post it on the wiki page Poetry AND your blog and say why you like this and what type of technique it used. Be sure to put both your name and cite the author of the poem.

My Home

Esperanza has definite feelings about her home. Create a poem about how you feel about your home. The poem should follow the format below. Make sure that it is descriptive and creative.

My home is …………….
It is …………………….

My home is …………..
It is ………………..

My home is………………
It is ………………….

My home is…………………
It is………………………….

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My Name


Pre- Writing- T o Say the Name is to Begin the Story

    • How do you feel about your name?

    • What are some stories or history that you know about your name?

    • If your name were a color, what color would it be? What type of animal?

    • What does your name represent to you? Think about metaphors or similes here.

    • Would you change your name if you could?

    • How does your name affect you?

Use the chapter “My Name” as a jumping off place and a source for inspiration, this assignment asks you to write about the story of your name. I want to know the history of your name, memories or stories about your name, your feelings about your name, nicknames you have, and anything else related to your name. Please use Cisneros’s descriptive style of writing as a model to try something new. If you get stuck use the chapter on names and try to imitate the style.

Assignment: Turn your pre-writing assignment into a short piece of writing/poetry- about a page. Be sure your writing is descriptive, includes at least one example of hyperbole, personification, a simile or metaphor, has sensory details and of course has rhythm!

Here is a website where you can research what your name means, however I want you to focus more on what you name means to you!


Peer Edit for My Name

Free Choice Poem


Part One:

Now that you have written My Name following an exact format and My Home following a theme, it is time for you to write a poem entirely your own creation. Think about the two poems you have already written, the poem you chose to read out loud and the elements of poetry you have learned about.

You can write a poem about any topic but it needs to at least 10 lines long, flow, be lyrical and include two of the following:
  • Rhythm-
  • Rhymes-
  • Couplet-
  • Free Verse
  • Alliteration
  • Cliché
  • Irony-
  • Metaphor
  • Simile-
  • Onomatopoeia-
  • Personification-
  • Hyperbole-

Part Two:

Exchange your poem with a partner. They should respond to the following questions:
1. Does the poem flow? Is it lyrical and have rhythm or rhyme?
2. Does the poem include two elements of poetry?
3. What is your impression of the poem?

Now take a look at your poem again and your partner's comments. Is this something that you would feel proud of publishing your name to?
Your final draft of your poem needs to include the following:
1. Be typed
2. Have a summary below it that includes the two elements of poetry you used and what the poem means to you.
3. Have your name on it.

Make sure to fill out the rubric for your Free Choice Poem

House on Mango Street Skits

You and your group need to come up with a two-minute skit that depicts (shows) the main themes and events of your chapter. Be sure to somehow include everyone in the skit, either by talking or acting. You have 15 minutes to come up with your skit. Make sure it is clear and well done.

Cathy Queen of Cats
Our Good Day
Gil’s Furniture Bought & Sold
Meme Ortiz


Criteria Excellent Pretty Good Needs Some Work SCORE

5 points

Skits show main events and main theme in the chapter.
Skits has events but does not capture main theme of the chapter
Skit does not make sense for the chapter

5 points
The skit is creative and entertaining
The skit is entertaining but not very creative
The skit is neither creative or entertaining

5 points
All members speak clearly, slowly, loudly so that every word can be understood and use emotions in acting
Members speak clearly, slowly, loudly so that every word can be understood OR do not use emotion in acting
It is hard to hear and understand speakers. No use of emotional tones.

Individual Role
5 points
You played a part in the skit and added the overall entertainment of the skit.
You kind of played a part in the skit but did not add to the skit
I wasn’t really sure what you were doing

Figures of Speech and Literary Terms Review

Character Metaphor

Remember that a metaphor is a comparison without using the words like or as. In this assignment you will be asked to choose a character from House On Mango Street and create a character metaphor for them that describes them. You will find evidence of why your character is represented by this metaphor from examples within the text. I will give you an example in class.

Task One: Create a character map describing how your character feels, acts, looks and what they say.


Task Two: Create a metaphor and find reasons and evidence from the text. Fill out the following worksheet.

Task Three: Write a paragraph with your metaphor and the reasons and evidence you chose.

Marin is a sponge because…
She cares too much for other people. She took Geraldo to the emergency room and stayed with him until he died.

Marin is a sponge because she is used to having to clean up after her extended family and take care of her sad and dirty cousins. Marin is a sponge because she is so sensitive……………

Pick your own character from the House on Mango Street and write a character metaphor. You need to write a 7-sentence paragraph describing your character.

Rubric for Character Metaphor