By Iris W., 7th Grade
Star-eyed and gap-toothed, every night little girls snuggle in bed as mothers and fathers open thick storybooks to read magical tales like Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty. They imagine a beautiful princess meeting a handsome prince and after many a curse and villain, they have a glamorous, sun-lit wedding. Fifteen years later the once-little girls are confronted with real life. It’s hard to find someone you have feelings for. And it’s even harder to find love at first sight. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros demonstrates the danger of believing in fairy tales. While fairy tales paint a wonderful world where love at first sight is real, Cisneros demonstrates that in the real world fairy tale love is a hoax.
Rapunzel teaches little girls that love at first sight is true; however, it is superficial and can’t possibly work out. When Rapunzel first meets her prince after he climbs into her room by using her hair as a ladder, he thinks she’s pretty and asks to marry her. “Rapunzel then lost her fear, and when he asked her whether she would have him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought, He’ll certainly love me more than old Mother Gothel. So she said yes, and placed her hand on his” (Brothers Grimm 44). Rapunzel’s decision is simpleminded and lacks fair judgement. She sees that he is young and handsome and decides that he’ll love her, and she’ll love him back because of these qualities. In the end, Rapunzel’s simple mindedness is rewarded and celebrated because she gets children, a prince, and a kingdom. Clearly, young girls would interpret this tale as an example of how to behave. Yet, this tale bears no resemblance to the real world in which love is much more complicated. It usually takes years to get to know someone and appreciate their character.
Cisneros’ novel, House on Mango Street, critiques the traditional fairy tales and suggests that love at first sight is dangerous and will never work. In the novel, Sally escapes living with her father by marrying the cotton candy man from a school fair. Like Rapunzel, she believes that she will have a happily ever after with this man, but instead, he traps her in the house and “won’t let her talk on the telephone. And he doesn’t let her look out the window. And he doesn’t like her friends, so no one gets to visit her unless he is working. She sits at home because she is afraid to go outside without his permission” (Cisneros 102). Sally’s fate explains how in the real world love at first sight can be dangerous because there is a high risk of it being an illusion. Sally assumes that the cotton candy man will free her from her dad; however, he seals her in a cage. Sally is just one of very many women in the novel who mistake a prince for a fraud. Cisneros offers a solution through the character Esperanza who suggests that girls save themselves instead of waiting for a prince. When Esperanza imagines her ideal future, she thinks, “One day I’ll own my own house… Passing bums will ask, Can I come in? I’ll offer them the attic, ask them to stay, because I know how it is to be without a house” (Cisneros 87). Esperanza is the opposite of Rapunzel and other traditional women because Esperanza wants to rescue herself and put men in the tower, so she has the power.
In both The House on Mango Street and “Rapunzel”, the girls run off with men believing they’ll find escape, Happily Ever After, and freedom. However, in “Rapunzel” love conquers all and offers a solutions to all life’s problems whereas in The House on Mango Street love ends up trapping the women instead of saving them. A novelist Henry James once said, “A novel is a picture of life.” This means a novel is only one piece in the whole big picture, and the author conveys his or her perspective of the world. Both books, however, exaggerate the nature of love. Brothers Grimm present an overly optimistic world where couples meet and fulfill their destinies. Cisneros paints a cruel, ugly, unforgiving world where love destroys all. But perhaps, reality is somewhere in between though closer to the world of Sandra Cisneros.