ENGL 1102 – Sections 33 & 103

Spring Semester 2010                   Essay 1: Acts of Reading


General Guidelines/Constraints of the Assignment (noted on the rubric as requirements for minimum grade of C)


Your goal on this and all essays for our class is to write a well-developed, unified, coherent response in support of a clearly stated argumentative thesis. Your paper should be three (3) full pages, typed double-spaced, in a 12-point font with one-inch margins on all sides. You must support all your claims with specific evidence from the texts, quoted and cited correctly according to MLA guidelines. All papers should also include a works cited paged, again prepared according to MLA guidelines. If you are unsure about these guidelines, please refer to Tab 6 in A Writer’s Resource.


NOTE: You must attend and have a full-length draft for the peer-review workshop scheduled on February 4th.

Specific Instructions


Focus on a specific aspect of Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and analyze it.  Developing a specific argument about the text based upon a close and informed reading of it is the means by which you will most successfully accomplish this assignment. Whatever idea(s) you explore, through a close analysis—serious theoretical questioning of the topic—you should develop conclusions regarding the meaning of the work. Here are some questions to consider:



 Notice that throughout the novel that the narrator and different characters are engaged in acts of “reading.”  Characters, for example, struggle to read and interpret various texts (actions, events, language acts, or symbols) and often end up interpreting them in very different ways. Write a paper that focuses on one of these acts of reading.

·         Why do these interpretive acts differ? 

·         What creates or causes the differences in interpretation? 

·         Do characters change their interpretations through subsequent re-readings? 


Consider for example: Esperanza and Sally interpret the “text” of male-female interaction in the Monkey Garden very differently.


Also consider: What processes are at stake in the different attempts to read, interpret and assign value to the idea of “home”? One interpretation is imposed upon Esperanza’s home at the beginning of the novel (the nun) but Esperanza works to destabilize that interpretation and ultimately changes its meaning(s). Is this related at all to struggles over power and the interpretation of individual identity within the Chicano community and broader American culture? The home (object) reveals how acts of reading are literally embedded in the novel. 


Furthermore, notice how Esperanza is engaged in a continual struggle to read and interpret the notion of home, an object that functions as a kind of text that Esperanza reads and interprets. How and why do her interpretations change and evolve? What interpretive communities inform her understanding of “home,” its meaning and significance?