Title

“The Only Way Out Is In”: Negotiating Identity through Narrative in The House on Mango Street and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

Minor

Spanish

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Andrew Black, PhD

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

While aimed at vastly different audiences, Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Sandra Cisneros’s beloved coming-of-age story The House on Mango Street both uniquely capture the complexities of navigating the ambiguous territory between hyphenated Mexican-American and Dominican-American identities. Cisneros engages readers with the simple, yet profound narrative voice of Esperanza in a series of vignettes that subtly reveal a growing consciousness of her role as a young Mexican-American woman and creative consciousness as an artist. Through the multifaceted narrative perspective of Yunior, Díaz skillfully weaves together the humorous sexual frustrations of “ghetto nerd” Oscar de León, tragic history of the Dominican Republic, sarcastic critique of the Trujillo dictatorship, and the multigenerational experiences of Oscar’s immigrant family. For Esperanza, narrating her experiences not only offers freedom from the limitations she observes on Mango Street, but also allows her to accept a responsibility to return to her community someday “For the ones who cannot out.” For Yunior, reconstructing Oscar’s story is a freedom that he identifies as the zafa, or “[His] very own counterspell,” to the Cabral-de León family’s fukú, the curse associated with the colonization of the New World. Telling these stories ultimately allows Esperanza and Yunior to reconcile conflicting identities, languages, and voices. This paper analyzes how narrative voice, perspective, and form in The House on Mango Street and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao artistically communicate the experience of coming to terms with a complex heritage while finding liberation from it.

Affiliations

Honors Thesis

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“The Only Way Out Is In”: Negotiating Identity through Narrative in The House on Mango Street and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

While aimed at vastly different audiences, Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Sandra Cisneros’s beloved coming-of-age story The House on Mango Street both uniquely capture the complexities of navigating the ambiguous territory between hyphenated Mexican-American and Dominican-American identities. Cisneros engages readers with the simple, yet profound narrative voice of Esperanza in a series of vignettes that subtly reveal a growing consciousness of her role as a young Mexican-American woman and creative consciousness as an artist. Through the multifaceted narrative perspective of Yunior, Díaz skillfully weaves together the humorous sexual frustrations of “ghetto nerd” Oscar de León, tragic history of the Dominican Republic, sarcastic critique of the Trujillo dictatorship, and the multigenerational experiences of Oscar’s immigrant family. For Esperanza, narrating her experiences not only offers freedom from the limitations she observes on Mango Street, but also allows her to accept a responsibility to return to her community someday “For the ones who cannot out.” For Yunior, reconstructing Oscar’s story is a freedom that he identifies as the zafa, or “[His] very own counterspell,” to the Cabral-de León family’s fukú, the curse associated with the colonization of the New World. Telling these stories ultimately allows Esperanza and Yunior to reconcile conflicting identities, languages, and voices. This paper analyzes how narrative voice, perspective, and form in The House on Mango Street and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao artistically communicate the experience of coming to terms with a complex heritage while finding liberation from it.