Home Sweet Home | Teen Ink

Home Sweet Home

May 29, 2008
By Anonymous

Authors Cisneros, White, and Alexie utilize the concept of a home being more than just a physical shelter for their characters. In the openings of the semiautobiographical stories Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White, The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros the main character expresses a feeling of being out of place within his or her home. The authors similarly use the idea of a “home” as a place where their characters feel like outsiders whether it’s in a Spanish community, a rundown house, or an Indian reservation. These short story characters all loathe their homes for similar reasons that ultimately lead to their greatest personal developments.

Cisneros, White, and Alexie’s characters all share the similar feature of dreading their homes for inflicting isolation. The three main characters convey a feeling of seclusion from their ambitions. Within The House on Mango Street Esperanza wishes to be away from the Spanish communities she’s grown up in. When talking about her culture Esperanza states, “Mexicans don’t like their women strong.” (pg. 10) This quotation expresses her disagreement with this traditional Mexican belief. Esperanza is being isolated from the strong women of other cultures by being trapped in her Mexican community. Junior, from Alexie’s The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, also feels a sense of confinement to his Indian people although his ambitions lead him elsewhere. Junior is an Indian boy with the gift of intellect leading him to a life outside his reservation. “I leaned through the basement window of the HUD house and kissed the white girl, I felt the good-byes I was saying to my entire tribe.” (pg. 176) By having an interaction with a white friend, Junior could already feel the guilt his culture had established in him. His cultural background isolated him from interaction with the white people and more importantly his education. In the story Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White, Bailey seems almost as if she is isolated within her own insecurity. Throughout the story Bailey convinces herself that her mother needs her help and that is why she is still in the same house that she grew up in. “I didn’t like to ask. ‘I’ll ask,’ said Mama.” (pg. 4) The only thing holding Bailey back from her future is her own insecurity from the world. This anxiety has isolated Bailey to her mother’s cluttered house holding her back from an independent future. The authors of the short stories use marginalization in order to express how the communities affected the characters.

The characters of the short stories share a feeling of restricting uniformity within their homes. By the end of the stories each character arrives at some sort of realization changing their views on exactly how much they detest this uniformity. At the start of each book the characters feel out of place in the traditions of their society. In The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Esperanza says, “I knew then I had to have a house. A real house. One I could point to. But this isn’t it. The house on Mango Street isn’t it.” (pg. 10) In this quotation the reader is introduced to the street name of the house she lives in, “Mango” Street. This particular word holds a large significance to understanding Esperanza’s dislike toward her house because it implies the Spanish heritage she has so critically disagreed with. The word “mango” suggests Spanish community relating to her home, or community. This Spanish uniformity ultimately leads her to a realization that her heritage is Spanish but if she were to leave Mango Street she would not be obligated to follow the standardized beliefs. In Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White, Bailey feels as if she is out of place in her community inhabited with grimy, fruitless drunks. “’Don’t get much orders for iced tea,’ she said.” (pg. 4) The bartender says this quote when Bailey ordered a drink from a neighborhood bar. This shows the high alcohol consumption in her community as well as the intelligence of its inhabitants. The bar tender uses incorrect grammar when speaking to Bailey showing the lack of proper education. The uncivilized people Bailey is forced to grow up with cause her to feel insecure. This ultimately makes her stronger as an adult allowing her to face the truth, that she enjoys taking care of her mother. By far the most uniformed civilization is the one stated in The Lone Ranger & Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie. Junior is an Indian boy that grows up on a reservation exposed to a strict Indian civilization in which he is not sure he fully belongs. “Back on the reservation, my mother stood in line to get us commodities.” (pg. 177) This articulates the principal aspects of life on the Indian reservation. Being secluded in the all-Indian reservation Junior is forced to grow and figure out how to abide by the opinions of his civilization as well as get an education in the white world. Each author uses uniformity to imply the empowerment that the main characters felt.

In each of the semiautobiographical short stories marginalization is used to express the growth of the main characters from the beginning to the end of the stories. The authors similarly use isolation and uniformity to explain the homes in which these main characters live. They all commonly feel a sense of not belonging to their homes, and communities. This gave each of the main characters the ability to rise above the marginalization in order to find where they belong.

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