The House on Mango Street

Beauty and its Beholders

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Beauty is an intricate detail that is constantly spoken of within the story. It is a character trait held only by the women and it has become a theme within the novel. I believe that beauty in this story is contrasted by jealousy and lust – with only the women to suffer from this alone.

Beauty causes the jealousy of Esperanza. Her dreams of being the beautiful and cruel woman who laughs all the men away is starkly contrasted by her own opinion of herself and the way her friends make fun of her. She calls herself an ugly daughter, her friends say she has a fat, ugly face, and she is quick to follow Sally around just to be around a girl who boys constantly find beauty in. This slight jealousy causes Esperanza to get caught up at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Rafaela is one of the first women we see in the story who’s beauty comes at a disadvantage. Her husband locks her in the home on Tuesdays when he goes out to play poker. Its a claim that because she is so beautiful, she will escape the apartment. This treatment shows that even though Rafaela has a trait that she cannot change, she is treated as an item of property and not valued like the woman she is.

Rafaela is not the only woman to suffer from her beauty. Sally is routinely beaten by her father and her impression on Esperanza makes sex appear to be an amazing thing. Beautiful people always tell the truth This causes Esperanza to blame Sally when the “Red Clowns” incident happened. “Sally, you lied.” Only three words, yet so strong in there meaning. This is the point in which I believe Esperanza finally comes to grips with her jealousy towards beauty and understands how beauty can affect its owner.

The lust of the men who attack Esperanza, the lust of the boys who tease Sally, and even the lust of Rafaela’s husband all result in the mistreatment of the women who are involved. It wasn’t beauty that caused these women to be mistreated, but the men who undervalued what beauty really is and went on a path to fill their own desires.

This book gives some real world implications that we are facing today. Blaming victims of sexual attacks with statements like, “You knew what you were doing when you went out looking like that” is diminishing the value of women. This novel faces the fact that beauty is not an offense. Women shouldn’t have to face the issue of being attacked or held to restraints because of their looks.

Every Day

The Effort of Discovering One’s Identity

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A is a remarkable character in the since that A has and idea of who A is. A, as a recap, changes bodies every day. If not asleep by midnight, A is ripped out of a body and placed into another, but always wakes up to a new body every morning. While A may have an idea on how A feels within their mind, the body is constantly changing. Even the construct of morals and discipline had to be learned by A. I believe this novel is not just a testament to sexual orientation or gender ideals, but a display of a structure many of struggle with in our bodies that remain to us alone: our identity.

Let me explain: A has one thing going for the character: their mind. By going through a multitude of bodies in A‘s life, they have developed a code of ethics and a sense of morals when it comes to the body the inhabit. This form of discipline is lacking in many of us, with addictions begging us to consume more or the urge to remain lazy are easily fed. A doesn’t feed these fires, but instead diminishes them. Their lack of a construct body is problematic, but they still have their identity that they can remain true to.

We, the humans of the natural world outside of the novel, have a single constant which is our bodies. Our bodies undergo change, but race, gender, and age either do not change or are not drastic leaps upon which A faces. Our identity, a construct that we express to show one’s self, is a developmental process.

I will use myself as an example. At High School I would be identified with Baseball and Cheer. When I joined the Marines, I threw out the previous construct and identified solely as “The Marine.” Friends even joked about my demeanor sometimes when I came back from drill, “Look at Rhett, he is still in Marine mode.”

The larger point to be made here is that our identity changes based on our job, activities, religion, sexual orientation, and a multitude of other things. The physical allocations of where we have been and what we do coupled by the things we like and what we believe develop into what is our identity.

A is metaphysical, where each body A takes is merely a push to the next day. Again, what will remain constant for A is their mind. This was not always the case, as personal growth happens in all humans and we can infer that A had to grow older, but as for the novels concern, we know that A is at a point where they have learned much of what human life is about and the multitude of personal feelings and physical allocations all humans do.

What is the take away from all of this? Why would I offer these ideas and deliver these statements?

The personal attitude of us as individuals is a focus point that we must develop. A is by no means the embodiment of a walking god, but the idea of a strong moral code and an inherent discipline are the characteristics we must strive for within ourselves to become a part of our identity. Identity is reflected out of the body. Even when A is inhabiting a body, they have to remain vigilant to not procure speech from their personal set of morals.

By developing one’s identity into a format that helps others is what I find as the biggest kicker for this novel. A has regrets for the things they have done before, and A is (what I can assume) only human. Yet A‘s identity is so strong. This is what we should all strive for: a strong identity that reflects good intent.

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Monster

Who is the real monster?

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Steve Harmon, the man, the myth, the leg- monster? That’s what society believes in Walter Dean Myers novel “Monster”. What did Steve do? Well, he knew some people in his community. He lived in the area that a murder took place. He also knew the store in question where the murder happened.

Steve Harmon did nothing to allow the murder to happen. Yet, he is on trial as an accessory to the crime, while the prosecutor is calling him a monster.

Who is the real monster of the story? The true criminals: James King, Osvaldo Cruz, and “Bobo” Evans? The prosecuting attorney? The people of the courtroom, who look at a young black and assume him as guilty? Or even Steve’s own defense attorney?

I would say that society creates a monster out of us all – it is up to us when that monster comes out. The criminals who clearly violated laws and killed a man – whether they shot him themselves or were an accessory to the crime – are each shown as a monster.

The prosecuting attorney and the people of the courtroom – each and every one of them expected the same thing – assumed that Steve was guilty. Innocent before proven guilty was switched to guilty until proven innocent. A young black man’s claims had no fortitude against the aggravated voices of the public. His own defense attorney denied him a hug in the end, a kick to the gut that basically says, “I still believe that you did it.”

The biggest monster in my mind is Cruz, who subsequently lied under oath stating that Steve was the lookout man. He lied to save his own skin, to get a lighter sentence, and to project blame onto someone else because the awful character of a man that he is. He would rather see Steve, an innocent man, take the death penalty just to see an earlier release time.

Steve and other characters are not without their own faults and I’m sure they hold a monster within them as all of us do. Steve doesn’t roll around the best people yet he does not act on any bad intent. Instead he ensures that he will proceed through his life without villainous acts and remain steady with the fortitude of a hero – just as his little brother asked him, “What superhero would you want to be?”

Superman.

Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda

Is it okay to be gay?

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This is the one thing that I feel as though Simon, through the majority of the novel, didn’t know. He felt as though his friends would accept him, that his parents would be fine with it, but still, there was this nagging feeling that kept hitting him when it came to light: should he come out or wait back on it?

We spoke about comparison’s between Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda and Speak, where both novels had a main character who was keeping a secret. Melinda desperately needed to tell her secret in Speak, but Simon almost seems annoyed with people when it comes down to keeping his sexuality not just hidden, but as a blatant lie towards being straight.

Even in the beginning at the end of page 11, Simon states,

“So it’s not just about me and my secrets. It’s hardly about me at all.”

Simon doesn’t want to be the next star in “Guess who’s gay?” at his school, he just wants to be normal. And when I say normal, I mean that he doesn’t want to be treated any differently than he is now. It isn’t until page 269 we see this famous quote from the book,

“White shouldn’t be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn’t even be a default.”

This is near the end and it is as if Simon finally accepts everything. He accepts himself, he accepts Bram, and he accepts the reality he has been placed in.

One last thing I would like to mention is just another subtle reference on changing the normality of gender roles. On page 264, Simon tells Abby that there is no way Nick won her all the stuffed animals she had in her hands. She mentions that he didn’t win them, she won them for him.

This little reference is a change in regular gender roles. Normally, the guy wins multiple things for his girl at the fair, yet here we see that everything has reversed. Its a nudge towards the exchange of gender roles slowly becoming the new normal.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Love Issues and the Loss of Purity within the Scope of Magical Realism

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Ava Lavender, to people’s eyes, is no ordinary girl. She was born with wings and lives her life with these extra appendages on her back. This is something everyone who has read the novel knows, but this one fact is the largest item of symbolism in the story. Ava Lavender is supposed to be the representation of purity for the novel and her lineage.

Ava wants love, but a look back into her family history shows that love isn’t so easily achievable. Her grandmother, Emilienne, “fell in love three times before her nineteenth birthday,” the novel reads. Most notably, Satin Lusch, who had bastard many children to mothers who would never see him again, was the worst of her lovers. After all, he impregnated Emilienne’s sister, Margaux. At 20, she marries Connor Lavender, has a child named Viviane with him, and shortly after, Connor dies of a heart attack.

Viviane wishes to be with Jack Griffith, but he does not keep her best wishes. Instead, she gets pregnant with fraternal twins, one named Henry and the other named Ava. Both young children take their mother’s maiden name, while Gabe is ever present to help Viviane.

While I could mention the Aunts, Ava falls into a similar category as her mother and grandmother – one man who corrupts her, while the next one is best. Satin then Connor, Jack then Gabe, Nathaniel then (hopefully) Rowe. Each woman had a love interest that hurt them at the beginning of their development as women.

What is interesting about Ava is how her wings become a tool to attract Nathaniel – giving him feathers piqued his interest but it was also symbolic for a moment later in the text, in which Ava was giving him something she could never get back. When Nathaniel rapes Ava, he takes her “purity” and her wings, both symbolic of each other. This all plays off of each other, where she gives a feather and he takes her wings, where she flirts with him and he rapes her.

It is not only the story of a poor girl with loads of loss, but of a man who has the desire to take what he wants without a care for the effect of others. Him wanting to “overpower” an angel is also symbolic of this – he raped Ava because he thought she was an angelic being. She may not be an ordinary girl but she is human – she is as a girl would be at her age.

The largest point I am demonstrating is not that Ava “had it coming”. I don’t believe anything a person does warrants them being raped. However, within the context of her family history, I believe that Ava was due for some sort of love based tragedy as her ancestors had all faced as well. As awful as it is, the sexual assault from Nathaniel was it, and it is possible that the ghosts of her aunts taking Nathaniel down afterward may be the end to this curse. Who knows, maybe Ava’s future children will face hardships that she and the women of her family have faced. I would like to hope that love finds them happy and well.

Persepolis and A Girl Called Echo

The Archaic Issues That Revolve Around Personal and Cultural Identity

As suggested above, the largest issue that concerns both major characters, (that of which is Marji and Echo), is their personal and cultural identity. An in-depth look into each character shows that their culture has a shape on not only the way they must act but also how they can be perceived by their peers and the whole world. The best way to begin is to look at each work on its own.

Persepolis

Above is a brief history of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. This video brings up much more about why the Revolution started, while Persepolis details what happened after the Revolution. The key component that brings the graphic novel and this video together is this:

Quote from a female protester

“Is there any room for our own culture” is the dramatic development that is Marji’s lifestyle in Iran. As a young girl with Shiite cultural ideas being forced upon her, she was made to conform to what her society thought was best. Unfortunately for her, the regime she protested against earlier had now been taken over by one that represses her more.

Through this and many tragic events that take place after Iran declares war with Iraq that Marji separates herself from her cultural identity to build up her own. As it is a coming to age story, Marji’s acceptance of who she is as a person and becoming the outlier of the accepted ideas in Iran is the true development of her character.

A Girl Called Echo

The character assessment of Echo is simple to state but hard to understand as an individual who is not of her culture: Her personal identity is tied to an understanding of her culture. She knows very little about the Metis with the graphics supporting how she feels lost. This is evident by her shirt saying “Weird”, songs titled “I Bleed” and “Don’t Cry” being on playlists, and her choice in the book “The Rebel” as a means to conjure up how she feels.

” “Someday we’re all going to be like white people,” my grandmother said in 1950. She noticed that the young people chose not to speak our native Kiowa language. “

From Perry G. Horse, Native American Identity (http://convention.myacpa.org/houston2018/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Horse_2005.pdf)

This quote really fuses into Echo’s reality, as neither she nor her mother knew nothing of the Metis people. Another unique trope this story adds on separation is Echo living in a foster home, bringing in a further separation from her culture which is her Metis mother. This outlook on personal identity is core to the development of young readers in not only their comprehension skills but their ability to empathize with those who struggle with personal and cultural identity.

The Purpose of This Blog

If you have come upon this blog as a means of curiosity or through site jumping, you will notice as I continue that this is no ordinary blog. It doesn’t spout off about the current political atmosphere or spill out the worries of my day. My concern will be novels.

This blog was created for the Young Adult Literature class at Southern Arkansas University. I will be given a framework for which books I will write about as well as guidelines on the way I should write about it. Within time, this blog will be full and academic in its posts.