Sexual Harassment in Everyday Life:
A House on Mango Street Essay



The House on Mango Street, a novel by Sandra Cisneros, covers the life of preteen Esperanza who moves to a rough Latino neighborhood, into a run-down house on Mango Street. This is not the house Esperanza had dreamed of, and it does not feel like “home.” Esperanza is faced with the dangers all around her, new friends and lots of new challenges, including sexual harassment. She experienced it in her first job, and even her trip to the fair with her friend. As Esperanza learns, sexual harassment can happen to anyone, at anytime, at any age. Sexual harassment is a common theme in The House on Mango Street; the author shows that sexual harassment can happen when you least expect it, getting good advice can make a difference, and girls should not feel at fault.
Sandra Cisneros points out how being assaulted can happen when you least expect it. In the chapter “First Job,” Esperanza lies about her age in order to get a job at Peter Pan Photo Finishers. On the job, Esperanza befriends a man whom she describes as old and “Oriental.” She becomes more comfortable at work now that she has someone to eat lunch with: “He asked if I knew what day it was, and when I said I didn't, he said it was his birthday, and would I please give him a birthday kiss. I thought I would because he was so old, and just as I was about to put my lips on his cheek, he grabs my face with both hands and kissed me hard on the mouth and doesn't let go” (55). As this quotation explains, Esperanza was doing no harm, she was simply being friendly to someone who made her feel more comfortable, and she was sexually harassed when she least expected it. The problem is later on in the book, Esperanza does not tell anyone in her family about the situation to prevent it from happening again in the future.

An additional main point is getting good advice can make a difference when dealing with sexual harassment. In the chapter “Linoleum Roses,” Esperanza’s friend Sally, who is under the age of fourteen, marries a much older marshmallow salesman who takes her to another state where it is legal for them to marry. Esperanza believes that Sally married to escape her house, and her abusive father. Sally believes she is fine because her husband gives her money even though he can sometimes become violent and angry towards her: “She is happy, except sometimes her husband gets angry and once he broke down the door where his foot went through. Except he won't let her talk on the telephone. And he doesn't let her look out the window. He doesn't like her to have friends, so no body visits unless he's working” (101-102). Although we don't know exactly how abusive her husband truly is, we do know that he is over powering and she is still struggling with him. Cisneros points out that Sally is dealing with her emotions from her father, but we realize her new husband is not helping her past. If Sally had gotten better advice from family and friends, then maybe she wouldn't had made such a decision.
Lastly the author is pointing out when girls are sexually harassed they should not feel at fault. In the chapter “Red Clowns,” Esperanza goes to a carnival with her friend Sally. Sally disappears with an older boy, leaving Esperanza alone. While waiting for Sally to come back, a group of boys attack Esperanza: “Sally make him stop. I couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t do anything but cry. I don’t remember. It was dark. I don’t remember. I don’t remember. Please don’t make me tell it all” (100). Esperanza is traumatized and can’t bare to talk about it, let alone think about it anymore. The problem is she should not feel at fault in this situation. While the book doesn’t say she was raped, the reader makes the assumption.

Sexual harassment is a common theme in the House on Mango Street. The author shows the reader sexual harassment can happen when you least expect it, getting good advice can make a difference, and girls should not feel at fault. Sexual harassment can happen to anyone, at anytime, at any age. Throughout history, women have needed to stand up for their rights and defend themselves against sexual harassment. Sandra Cisneros grew up in the 1960's which was when The Women’s Movement took place. This began a shift in the way women are viewed, however we still have a long ways to go. Reading this book helps gives the reader a better understanding of sexual harassment.