House on Mango Street


Kimberly Garcia                                                                                              February 7, 2011

English 162W                                                                                                 Professor Zino

            Referring to both Yi-Fu Tuan’s “Space, Place, and the Child” and Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street”, the authors illustrate what space and place means to an individual. More so for Tuan as the development of space and place whereas Cisneros’s protagonist tries to define her space and place. As we discussed in class, a “place” was somewhere anyone can attend and a “space” was somewhere intimate for an individual. For example, a place could be New York where everyone can go but a space can be your room which is limited to some.

            Author Yi-Fu Tuan describes the gradual transmission of understanding space and place from infancy to adulthood. As infants, we don’t understand where we are, let alone feel emotion or connection to places. We could only feel our surroundings which is what we are restricted to. However as Tuan points out, that is when we understand our “space”. Examples include infants exploring with their mouths as they are being breastfed or movements such as kicking the blanket. As we grow from infancy to young children, we begin to understand “place”. It is something that we are not familiar with. As Tuan explains “Place, to a child, is a large and somewhat immobile type of object”; there is no security in the environment, just an element that attracts the eye.

            Likewise for author Sandra Cisneros, her protagonist in her short story identifies her “places” but no “spaces”. In the beginning, we are immediately aware of her places; “Loomis on the third floor, Keeler, Paulina”. Although the “places” she mentions seem like “spaces” at first, they’re not because of the constant moving her family does. Her “places” are not intimate enough to be labeled as a “space”. She is constantly told that they are temporary places and therefore doesn’t connect to them. She certainly didn’t connect to her previous home on Loomis street after the nun questions her place with a tone of “there?”. Nor did it feel like a “space” when it had been robbed. She is given the ideas and fantasies of what a “space” should be by her parents. As she says “They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would be ours for always so we wouldn’t have to move each year …….our house would be white with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence”

            Opposite to how the infant feels in Tuan’s perspective, the character in Cisneros’ story cannot identify her space because it wasn’t explored enough to be called a “space”. Her parents’ fantasy of a real home is not a “space” but a “place” until they get the chance to experience it.

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