Everyone has specific characteristics and qualities that make them the way they present themselves. Young, middle-aged, and old people are constantly forming the essentials that affect their self-awareness through their daily activities. Forming ones identity is an ongoing process, because every person in the world can change people one way or another. In The House on Mango Street, the experiences young Esperanza faced day to day develop her true individuality.
Young people are easily persuaded and if someone so desired, they could mold them into the person they want. Commonly, young children develop their identity from going the school, playing with other children, and from their home life. When children go to school, if they are teased for being ethnic, colored, unkempt or anything else, this could cause them to be introverted, or ashamed of how they present themselves. On the other hand, the constant teasing from schoolmates may begin to brew strong feelings of anger. If they are rejected by society, when they are just starting to form an identity, this will probably have a negative effect upon them and their surrounding communities.
The identity, also, comes largely from the family, neighborhood and a small crowd of friends. A supportive and functional home life will be positive to a little childs identity. If children see their parents fighting, the neighborhood they live in is a slum, they are around drugs and addictions, and then most likely the childrens identity will be affected negatively. Neighborhood friends can be negative influences also. They could pressure others to smoke, do drugs, or simply be the wrong crowd to get mixed up with, and in return, will cause nothing but trouble. The opposite could happen, and friends could be positive influences. For example, if the children are intelligent, enrolled in school, come from good homes and have their heads on straight then their identity will be properly formed.
The character, Esperanza, in The House on Mango Street has Mexican roots and her heritage is the center of her identity. Her name means hope, in Spanish, but she is embarrassed by such an uncommon and ethnic name. She says, I would like to be baptize myself under a new name, a name more like the real me, the one nobody sees (11). People in her neighborhood are always being stereotyped as dangerous and troublesome people. Esperanza is not like all of the other people she lives near. The bums try to kiss the neighborhood girls, children smoke cigarettes and husbands are abusive, but Esperanza knows this will not happen to her later on in life. Also, she will not be a boy crazy teenager, because she feels there is more to life than boys or she will not let any man abuse her, because she is stronger than that. One day Esperanza is walking down the street and says, I had to prove to me that I wasnt scared of nobodys eyes (72). She does not want to look like a little girl and show that she is weak and afraid of strangers. So she has to grow up fast physically and emotionally. Another characteristic she has is her gentleness and sense to nurture.
She is very gentle through her poetry, which expresses her true identity. Nature is a main theme in her poems:
I want to be
Like the waves on the sea,
Like the clouds in the wind,
But Im me.
One day Ill jump
Out of my skin.
Ill shake the sky
Like a hundred violins (61).
She wants to be known as a gentle girl, unlike all the aggressive and abusive people who surround her life. Esperanza has to learn responsibility when she is young, because she always had to look out for her little sister, Nenny. Her sister is a responsibility when they are out of the house and if anything happened to younger Nenny, Esperanza would get in trouble for what happened. In addition, when Esperanza gets a job, she learns how to be responsible, and she also saw some of the real world. Older people were not friendly in that workplace, she does her tedious job standing up and when she eat her lunch, she sat alone once again with no friends. She says, The Catholic high school costs a lot, and Papa says nobody went to public schools unless you wanted to turn out bad (53). Esperanza was most of the time, the opposite of everyone else. She was a girl who was strong and determined to succeed in life. In addition, she was lonely and one day wanted to find a true friend all of her own. It is hard to find true friends, because all of the friends moved away in the next week or two.
Esperanza forms her identity on Mango Street, but will never forget her true self and home. At the end of the book she says, One day Ill own my own house, but I wont forget who I am or where I came from (87). She knows that she can and will get out of the neighborhood she is in at that current moment in time because she has the determination to lead a better life than the one she lives now. Nothing can alter the true identity she formed while growing up on Mango Street.
An individuals identity is unique and at the same time is something that is constantly being formed. Esperanza is constantly coming in contact with people and situations in her daily life that affects her identity and outlook upon life. The surroundings on ones life can be positive or negative, and this is what makes a person who she is.