Shoes as Representation of Sexuality in The House on Mango Street
In The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros constructs the motif of shoes by using shoes to represent sexuality, maturity, and emotions. The first instance of shoes representing maturity takes place in vignette 17, “The Family of Little Feet”.
In this vignette, Esperanza, Nenny, Lucy, and Rachel all receive high heels from one of their neighbors and waltz around town with them on. The author uses foreshadowing when Mr. Benny, the corner store owner, warns them saying, “They are dangerous…You girls too young to be wearing shoes like that. Take them shoes off before I call the cops…”. The quote is referring to the man’s knowledge about how people will probably react to the girls because they look older with the heels on. The shoes transform their scarred, infantile feet and legs into those of women. Men look seductively at the girls, and the girls realize the fashion-like game they are playing could eventually lead to something more dangerous. A bum offers, “If I give you a dollar will you kiss me? How about a dollar. I give you a dollar, and he looks in his pocket for wrinkled money”. This reaction is what first causes Esperanza to make the connection between shoes and sex. Later that afternoon, the girls are not hesitant to abandon the shoes, claiming they are tired of being beautiful. The incident with the bum scared Esperanza and her friends which might explain why they were “tired of being beautiful”. For the time being, Esperanza will forget about her new sexual attractiveness and become childlike once more.
The use of shoes in the vignette, “Chanclas”, expresses Esperanza’s emotions, her confidence, and once again her sexuality. In the vignette, Esperanza’s relative gets baptized and Esperanza’s mother buys her new clothes, like a dress, for the ceremony, however she forgets to buy Esperanza new shoes for the occasion, which Esperanza doesn’t like. There’s a celebration after the baptism. Esperanza’s mother drinks and dances with everyone. Everyone is having fun, aside from Esperanza because she hates having to wear her brown saddle shoes. This is first emphasized when the author states, “My feet scuffed and round, and the heals all crooked that look dumb with this dress, so I just sit”. Esperanza’s shoes end up reminding her of lunch where she was embarrassed and ashamed about her shoes which she thinks to be stupid. Shoes symbolize sexuality again here, due to the changes that Esperanza is going through, and first experiences her rising sexuality in wanting to be noticed by the for looks and being cute by the boy at the dance. Sadly, her own embarrassment and hesitation cause her to hold back. This shows that Esperanza continues to be very fragile and very timid while going through these changes throughout her life. The reason sexuality connects with her wanted attention from the boy is because she wanted him to notice her and think she was cute and potentially start to like her. However, the way this connects to shoes is because Esperanza didn’t feel as confident in her ragged old shoes as she would in new shoes.
In the vignette, “A House of My Own”, Esperanza shows a lot of self-development and independence throughout the short vignette. Also, the repetition of sexuality is seen in this vignette as well. Esperanza describes the house of her dreams describing, “A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories…”clean as paper before the verse form”. This quote from the book represents Esperanza’s hope for freedom, independence, and escape from Mango Street. Earlier and later in the book Esperanza describes Mango Street to be bad and unenjoyable, which is why she wants to move away, far away, and have her own house that doesn’t belong to anyone but herself. Although Esperanza doesn’t think fondly of Mango Street and the experiences she’s had there, she still describes it to be a part of her that will never depart. Esperanza brings along what she has learned and expands upon her dream. The home is her own currently, together with her own sexuality (her shoes) next to her own bed and her materials for reading and writing. Esperanza makes the decision then and there that she’s no longer going to be treated sexually. She decides she’s going to escape, which is why she talks about her dream house and how she will one day live there. Her house, like blank paper before the verse form, will be one thing she is going to create. This vignette was written at the end of the book and for obvious reasons you can tell that Esperanza has matured a lot.
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