Discovery Techniques for Essay 1
The House on Mango Street reveals how acts of reading are literally embedded in the novel. 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. For Essay 1, you will 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?
“assenting” reader: scholar Judith Fetterly uses this as a term for characters who have become psychologically “assenting readers” of their patriarchal environment in that they comply with dominant assumptions about gender, as well as reproduction, marriage, careers, and many other things in a culture which may be identified by the gender of its participants.
“resisting reader”: Characters learn to resist complying with dominant assumptions about gender, race, and culture, or even considerations of what is “normal” and “natural.”
Example: Opening Chapter, “The House on Mango Street”
The house as a “text”
1) How does Cisneros position the “text” as one that’s being read?
2) Who is “reading” it?
· Locate all the language that describes the text (does the text give us the perspective of the one describing the house?)
· How does the house function as a sign, a visible stand-in for hidden meanings and ideas? Note: It may be a sign that a particular culture invests with meaning, or simply a sign that the private individual invests with meaning, sometimes both.
3) What are the different ways in which the “text” is interpreted? Analyze the significance of each and the import of each reading to the novel as a whole.
4) What accounts for the differences, you think?
5) Do any individuals change or modify or come to a new awareness of the text? What causes the shift?
Go to chapter “Bums in the Attic” (page 86). Repeat this process. Is Esperanza’s sense of “home” changing? How is this change important to the novel overall, its themes and arguments?
Example: “The Family of Little Feet” (page 39)
The high-heeled shoes as a “text”
Group Presentation: Looking Ahead Toward Essay 1
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.
Today, you will work in a group that focuses on one of these acts of reading (you might focus on one key passage or chapter or multiple chapters). How does Cisneros position the “text” as one that’s being read? For instance, how do you know the girls in “Family of Little Feet” are “reading” the shoes as signifiers (a “stand-in” for hidden ideas and meaning)? What are the different ways in which the “text” is interpreted? What accounts for the differences, you think? What specific language in the novella leads you to this interpretation?
Type your responses in clear and organized fashion. Save the document, and be prepared to present your findings to the class Thursday.