Mango Street and American Social Classes






The House on Mango Street is a book written from the perspective of a young child, Esparanza. This girl views her life in an extremely poetic fashion; she explains almost everything in a manner that is very decorated and distant from normal speech. Each chapter consists of a different aspect or event pertaining to Esparanza’s life. She concerns herself with things that seem trivial or simply unimportant. An example of her seemingly pointless rambling is the chapter titled “Hairs.” In this chapter, she explains the hair of each person in her family using an overabundance of similes. She puts much effort into building the greatness of her mother’s hair by comparing it to the smell of freshly baked bread and to little rosettes. Esparanza seems to be an unhappy little girl to say the least. She wishes to have a different name, have a different home, eat lunch at school rather than go home to eat, etc. When she speaks of her name, Esparanza refers to sadness; she is particularly fond of the idea of changing her name to Zeze the X. By the sound of all her descriptions, she is just very down and without any hope of any substantial dose of happiness. The nuns in her neighborhood and at her school make her feel worthless because of the place she calls home. Two separate times she is asked by a nun to point out her house, and she gets embarrassed and sad each time. When Esparanza points to her home, the first nun we are introduced to responds, “You live there?” A comment such as that would kill the pride of most people, especially a young girl whom is already ashamed of her house. She has no hope of a better life regardless of the fact that her parents repeatedly speak optimistically of moving to a picture perfect house to call home. Esparanza is also easily amused; she got jollies from taking a ride in a car, and running around is someone’s old high-heeled shoes. She leads a life with little excitement or variation.
Obviously, Esparanza is a poor child in a family stricken by poverty. She is a victim of strict social stratification. Social stratification is the separation of members in a social atmosphere into layers or strata. Unfortunately, these strata are formed on the basis of one’s income and tangible resources. Social forces are what influence the formation of our social classes. Once someone is established in a particular class, there is little hope of moving upward on the ladder; mobility within our social structure is very minimal. For instance, a child into the lower class has many obstacles in their path for betterment. A minority such as Esparanza will have even more difficulty than will a Caucasian. Lower class comes with low income. Low-income families are generally congregated in certain areas where their low taxes provide a bottom end education. If by chance a lower class minority receives a first-rate education, they will more than likely not put it to great use. Two reasons explain this. First, people generally stick to what they know. With a background as a member of a poor family, one is not likely to stray far from home. An education will not often change someone’s basic values, priorities, and aspirations. Second, though it has been addressed, discrimination is still apparent in our society. With the exception of cases concerning of affirmative action policies, minorities are often overlooked for jobs that would allow them to shift through a social stratum.
An idea to keep in mind is that of having only one social class with a great deal of diversity. This ideal is impossible due to the natural process by which people are brought up and taught to perform in society. If people could just see the necessity of the diversity within a society, everyone could feel as if they fit and are performing their role in the larger scheme. After all, if there were no diversity in income and resources, what would be the tool for measuring one’s worth or wealth?





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