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The Portrayal of the Sexual Violence Against Female Adolescents in “The House on Mango Street”
The perception of the vital and essential subject of sex held by the majority of adolescents, even in today’s progressive world, is alarmingly apocryphal. The world’s frantic attempts to preserve the beauty of childhood’s innocence and the alluring vision of passionate really like has led inexperienced adolescents to conceive an idealistic and unrealistic image of sex. This fallacious belief is a extreme threat for young girls who may possibly unknowingly become victims of harrowing sexual encounters. The revolutionary author, Sandra Cisneros utilizes the vignette “Red Clowns” within her autobiographical novel “The Property on Mango Street” to poignantly depict the socially suppressed horrors of sexual oppression. This haunting story is narrated by the novel’s adolescent protagonist, Esperanza, right after she is sexually molested at a carnival whilst she was waiting for her pal, Sally.
The vision of sex traditionally painted by the media is radically misleading. Most films and novels portray sex as a sacred and romantic union of two love-struck folks. The gory particulars of rape and other types of violent sexual assaults are rarely pointed out. The few books and films that expose this dark alter ego of sex are very carefully concealed from the unsuspecting eyes of idealistic adolescents. As a result, most girls grow up naively dreaming of a passionate, loving sexual expertise. Esperanza, possessing believed in this dream, is thus left in a state of complete confusion soon after her traumatic sexual encounter: “The way they stated it, the way it’s supposed to be, all the storybooks and motion pictures, why did you lie to me?” (Cisneros, 122). This lyrical sentence, composed of detached fragments, depicts Esperanza’s wrecked mental state with heartbreaking clarity. The reader can very easily comprehend, without having becoming explicitly told, that Esperanza’s negative sexual expertise was the antithesis of what society had led her to count on. Her softly reproachful tone for getting been tricked into cherishing unrealistic romantic concepts later changes into vehement accusations: “I waited my whole life. You are a liar. They all lied. All the books and magazines, almost everything that told it wrong.” (Cisneros, 123). The hyperbolic statement, “I waited my complete life”, cogently conveys the crushing disappointment she experienced on seeing her long-held dreams of fairy-tale adore dissolve. It also implies that the innocent life she utilized to lead was more than. The personification of “books and magazines” indicates that Esperanza’s rage is directed against the men and women who wrote them. The simplicity of the diction employed in these terse, childlike allegations potently portrays her ravaged faith in the integrity of the media and human beings in common.
The media is not solely responsible for preserving this false depiction of romantic sex. The people centrally involved in this conspiracy of lies are, in fact, females themselves. Women’s overwhelming personal insecurity makes them wary of sharing unpleasant sexual encounters with other individuals. Hence, Esperanza only heard stories of tender romance from her very best friend, Sally, and was devastated when her own experience ended up being so brutally distinct: “Sally, you lied. It wasn’t what you said at all. What he did. Where he touched me. I didn’t want it, Sally.” (Cisneros, 122). Even though Esperanza by no means mentions particulars of what happened, the fragmented sentences, “What he did. Where he touched me”, vividly evokes pictures of the harrowing sexual abuse she was forced by way of. Her pathetic cry, “I didn’t want it, Sally”, conveys her utter helplessness in the course of this event. All through this vignette, Esperanza repeatedly reproaches Sally for lying to her. According to Maria Herrera-Sobek, her “diatribe” is aimed not only against Sally, but rather against “the neighborhood of girls who maintain the truth from the younger generation of women in a conspiracy of silence” (Herrera-Sobek, 222).
The misrepresentation of sex by society is one particular of the principal causes of the increasing rates of sexual assaults. Adolescent females are not conscious of the perils of sexual oppression and thus do not take required precautions against it. Alternatively they try their greatest to attract men’s attention and revere the ones who are effective in performing so. The “Red Clowns” subtly portrays this destructive tendency of young girls:
I was waiting by the red clowns. I was standing by the tilt-a-whirl where you stated. And anyway I don’t like carnivals. I went to be with you due to the fact you laugh on the tilt-a-whirl, you throw your head back and laugh. I hold your alter, wave, count how many times you go by. Those boys that look at you since you are pretty. I like to be with you, Sally. You are my pal. (Cisneros, 122-123)
This straightforward passage, filled with strong imagery clearly illustrates Esperanza’s excessive devotion for her pal, Sally. She went to a carnival, where she was clearly bored, merely to be with Sally and was prepared to do everything Sally said, even if that meant waiting for hours. Even though Esperanza justifies her extreme affection for her friend by saying, “I like to be with you, Sally. You’re my buddy,” her former observation that “Those boys that look at you simply because you are pretty” suggests a diverse reason for her attachment. Sally enticed boys by means of flirtatious actions like throwing her “head back” and laughing by spending time with Sally, Esperanza wanted to understand the implies of exercising such power over guys. Ironically, her attempts to realize the approach of controlling men led her to experience the most traumatizing event of her life in which a man had complete manage over her.
Another important trigger of women’s continued oppression in society is the lack of female bonding. Sally’s careless and selfish choice to leave Esperanza all alone in the carnival in order to have a romantic fling with a boy is undoubtedly one particular of the essential causes for her exposure to sexual violence: “But that big boy, exactly where did he take you? I waited for such a long time. I waited by the red clowns, just like you said, but you never ever came, you by no means came for me.”(Cisneros, 123). Despite the fact that Sally was supposed to be Esperanza’s pal she deserted her to go with a “big boy” and never ever returned. The repetition, “you never came, you in no way came for me”, vividly depicts Esperanza’s acute feelings of betrayal. Nonetheless, the truth that Sally does not return regardless of getting promised Esperanza that she would leaves the reader questioning regardless of whether Sally, also, may possibly have been subjected to a equivalent harrowing experience. But Esperanza does not consider this and blames Sally totally for her tragic loss: “Sally Sally a hundred instances. Why didn’t you hear me when I known as? Why didn’t you inform them to leave me alone?”(Cisneros, 123). In this passage, Esperanza childishly reproaches Sally for not hearing her cries in the midst of a noisy carnival and for not saving her from boys they were both powerless to fight against. She does not even when accuse the men directly accountable for the pathetic state she was in. Her rage is directed only towards Sally because she does not possess the courage needed to blame the correct offenders.
Victims of sexual oppressions invariably undergo a period of paralyzing mental trauma. They are constantly haunted by memories of this grueling experience despite their desperate attempts to forget. Via her very carefully crafted use of strong imageries, Cisneros depicts, in Esperanza, the damaged mental state of rape victims with heart wrenching accuracy: “Sally, make him cease. I couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t do something but cry. I do not don't forget. It was dark. I do not don't forget. I don’t bear in mind. Please do not make me inform it all.” (Cisneros, 123). This poignant passage, narrated with a tone of uncontrolled panic, cogently conveys Esperanza’s torturous mental condition right after being sexually molested. She asks Sally to “make him stop”, though her assaulters had all left by then. This implies that she was being tormented by agonizing memories of the occasion. The lines “I couldn’t make them go away. I couldn’t do anything but cry”, illustrate her stifling feelings of utter powerlessness. Her repeated cries, “I don’t remember”, and pitiful plea, “please do not make me tell it all”, portray her crippling worry of the memories that have been nonetheless haunting her.
Sexual oppressions are frequently a kind of racial violence. This seems to be the case for Esperanza. Although the race of her sexual assaulter is by no means straight revealed, Esperanza mentions that he kept saying: “I enjoy you, I really like you Spanish girl” (Cisneros, 123). The beautiful words “I love you” sound repulsively obscene in this context and their repetition only intensifies this feeling of abhorrence. By calling her “Spanish girl”, he was clearly mocking her Latino heritage. This insinuates that he himself came from a diverse racial background. The theme of racial discrimination is prevalent all through Cisneros’s novel, “The Home on the Mango Street”, but it surfaces with the most heartrending brutality in this passage.
The shockingly amusing attitude most males have towards sexual violence and the pure resignation with which the majority of girls accept this attitude is leading to a developing heap of rape victims: “Only his dirty fingernails against my skin, only his sour smell once more. The moon that watched. The tilt-a-whirl. The red clowns laughing their thick-tongue laugh.” (Cisneros,123). This passage is filled with the important symbols Cisneros utilizes in this impressionistic story. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, moon is an icon of femininity and through the anthropomorphism “moon that watched”, Cisneros portrays the silent tolerance of male oppression by the female population. According to Wikipedia, the tilt-a-whirl is one particular of the most well-known rides in the amusement parks which exhibits “unpredictable chaotic motion”. Hence the tilt-a-whirl epitomizes the chaos and confusion Esperanza felt as she was being raped. The strong imagery produced by the phrase “dirty fingernails against my skin” and the synesthesia “sour smell” gives a heartrending glimpse into Esperanza’s feelings of physical violation.
Also, the term “red clown” (the title of the chapter), is the most salient symbol in this passage. According to the “Dictionary of Symbolism”, red is “an emotionally charged color” which denotes a multitude of elements including blood, anger, passion, sexual arousal and masculinity. Cisneros as a result utilizes red to symbolize Esperanza’s loss of blood and helpless rage during the tragic sexual encounter. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a clown as “an ignorant, rude, uncouth, ill-bred man” while Wikipedia calls clowns “comical performers” who attempt to entertain people with their “grotesque appearance” but frequently evoke worry as an alternative. Red clowns thus represent formidable male figures and the chilling image developed by the phrase “red clowns laughing their thick tongue laugh” portrays the cruel pleasure males derive from the oppression of women. On a broader context, “red clowns” denote the method of deception and lies that increases the vulnerability of young girls to sexual subjugation and foreshadows the sexual content of the chapter.
With this heartbreaking narrative in the “Red Clowns”, Cisneros boldly reveals the harsh face of sexual reality which society has meticulously kept hidden behind a mask of tailored romanticism. She also illustrates the principle causes and disastrous effects of the sexual molestation of female adolescents. By way of her ingenious use of vividly evocative imageries, subtle symbols and appropriately childish language, Cisneros leaves a lasting impression on the reader’s mind, which urges them to attempt and bring an end to this unvoiced technique of brutal sexual violence.
1. Cisneros, Sandra. The Home on Mango Street. New York: Alfred A. knopf, 2001.
2. “Clown, n.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED On the internet. Oxford University Press. 10 May 2010 <http://dictionary.oed.com/>
3. “Clown.” Wikipedia, The Cost-free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 10 May 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clown>
4. Herrera-Sobek, Maria.”The Politics of Rape: Sexual Transgression in Chicana Fiction.” Beyond Portia: Females, Law and Literature in the United States. Eds St. Joan, Jacqueline and Annette Bennington McElhiney. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1997, 216-225.
five. “Moon, n.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989. OED On-line. Oxford University Press. 10 May possibly 2010 <http://dictionary.oed.com/>.
6. “Red”. On-line Symbolism Dictionary. ten May possibly 2010. <http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/>.
7. “Tilt-a-whirl.” Wikipedia, The Cost-free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. ten May 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilt-a-whirl
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