In the novella, Cisneros levels the fairy tales through the relationship of the timing of the allusions. She presents these allusions in the middle of the novella when Esperanza is processing between her naive childhood and maturity. Her neighbour’s experiences help her develop the potentialities of her future. Cisneros makes these allusions to show that Esperanza is not yet able to see past the ideal opinions of her childhood. She also selects the fairy tales that show emphasises the heroine in a passive role within her own like for example Rapunzel, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, and Cinderella. Cisneros selects these tales to illuminate the victimization of the women of her neighbourhood. These tales are being parodied through a naïve narrator.
Cisneros presents Rafaela’s character as an archetype to Rapunzel’s tale. In this vignette, Rafaela is in a similar circumstance to Rapunzel. She is locked in a ‘tower’ because she is beautiful. Cisneros also has Rafaela let down a bucket on a rope as Rapunzel would let down her hair. Esperanza’s naive personality sees this situation as entertaining and does not understand the trap Rafaela is struck in and will continue to be stuck in as she awaits her ‘prince’. The naïve narrator does not see the truth of the situation, but we, as readers, understand that the mature narrator is showing us the ongoing cycle of the illusion of waiting for rescue in the community. Although the naïve narrator does not understand Rafaela’s trap, her situation is really quite dire because she lacks freedom and choice. Cisneros writes, “Rafaela, who is still young but getting old from leaning out the window so much, gets locked indoors because her husband is afraid Rafaela will run away since she is too beautiful to look at. Rafaela leans out the window and leans on her elbow and dreams her hair is like Rapunzel’s”. The reference to the window is an echo of an earlier vignette in the book, “My Name”,” where Esperanza tells the reader about her great-grandmother who was forced into marriage. Cisneros writes, “She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. . . . Was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window”. The window represents a wall between the inside and the outside. Rafaela is forced to stay inside, by her husband, as that is the inner wall of domestic work. The women who are outside are not seen likely to get married and become someone respectable. Her husband keeps her to himself by locking her inside, therefore he will not allow her to be anything more than his something he owns. The world outside the window is a world for men, where independence exists. Both Rafaela and Esperanza’s grandmother lean ‘their sadness on an elbow’ because of their dream to become more than someone what their society limits them to be. They want the freedom to do things they wish. She is forever captured by the dictates of her patriarchal as she lacks the strength to break free and will forever dream of fantasy with someone who rescues her. She will always remain the lady in distress waiting for her prince to come.
The vignette, “There Was an Old Woman She Had So Many Children She Didn’t Know What to Do”,” is unquestionably a reference to the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” and her children. Just like the Old Woman, Esperanza’s neighbours are an out of control family. Cisneros writes, “Rosa Vargas’ kids are too many and too much…They are without respect for all things living, including themselves”. In this vignette, Cisneros is again building the strained position in which the woman of Mango street find themselves. Mrs Vargas depended on her husband to raise the large family. From this Cisneros shows us Mr Vargas did not value his wife as he left her without any financial support. He uses her and then casts her away. All in all, both Mrs Vargas and the Old Woman are overwhelmed by their duties as a mother. None can figure out the way to get food for their children. However, the Old Woman was able to introduce some discipline to her children while Mrs Vargas was having a hard time coping which resulted in the death of her son.
In the vignette ‘The Family of Little Feet’ Cisneros uses language that mimics the style of Cinderella and The Three Bears. She begins the vignette with ‘There was a family.’ which makes the vignette sound more like a story. She then describes each family member’s feet reminiscent to the tale of The Three Bears and uses parallel structure to describe the traits, falling in line with the stereotypical gender expectations. From the description, Cisnero wants us to interpret that the women are lovely and dainty while the man is rough and masculine. This family gives Esperanza and her friends a bag of women’s high heel shoes. Just like Cinderella, the girls turned into beautiful women by putting on the shoes. Cisneros writes, “Do you like these shoes? But the truth is it is scary to look down at your foot that is no longer yours and see attached a long long leg”. Furthermore, the shoes embody a transition from childhood to adulthood. As the girls are running down the streets in their shoes, they receive a reaction which is very different from the usual response in the neighbourhood. This is evident in “Down to the corner where the men can’t take their eyes off us. We must be Christmas”. Even though the girls enjoyed the remarks at first, they started to get scared after thus they did not stay at a particular place for a long time. The girls continue to run as, like Cinderella, they were not ready to face the consequences of the change the shoes brought them. In the end, they turned back to the young girls of Mango Street. This can be seen in “We are tired of being beautiful. Lucy hides the. . . shoes. . . until one Tuesday her mother, who is very clean, throws them away. But no one complains”. Rejecting the shoes also made them reject the roles that come along in their society.
The last allusion is to the wishing star which appears in the vignette ‘Marin’. In this vignette, Cisneros writes about Marin, an older teenager, from Puerto Rico. Esperanza shows interest about the things Marin teaches her about life, she seems “already older than us in many ways”. Marin tells Esperanza and her friends “that’s where the best jobs are since you always get to look beautiful and get to wear nice clothes and can meet someone in the subway who might marry you and take you to live in a big house far away”. Yet, Marin is unable to accomplish the things she tells Esperanza as she is being sent back to Puerto Rico which is because of the things that she does. This can be seen in “Marin, under the streetlight, dancing by herself, is singing the same song somewhere. I know. Is waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life”.
All in all, Esperanza understands that she belongs to the community of Mango Street although she wants to escape from there. It has helped her realise the true woman she is. After meeting the Three Sisters she understands the fact that she has to return and help “the ones left behind. For the ones who cannot out”. From this, the readers can interpret that it is Esperanza who will come back and save the women on Mango Street and will show them a better way of living life which will help them live happily ever after.