Esperanza Rising Study Guide


The conflict of a plot is the major problem experienced by the protagonist. In Esperanza Rising, Esperanza must learn to live a new life as a poor migrant in California after her father is killed and her lavish home is destroyed in Mexico.


The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. In this story, Esperanza must rise above the cruel actions of Tío Luis and Tío Marco, who have destroyed her life. She must learn how to adjust to being a migrant worker in California when she has always been the daughter of a rich and powerful family in Mexico.


The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character. In this plot, Tío Luis and Tío Marco work together as a single antagonizing force. They drive Esperanza and Mama to leave Mexico and provide a threat to Abuelita, who must remain behind.

The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. The climax of Esperanza Rising occurs when Miguel brings Abuelita to California. This is the most significant turning point because it proves to Esperanza that everything will be all right in California. Furthermore, Abuelita’s escape from Mexico is a final victory over Tío Luis and Tío Marco, who tried to prevent her from leaving. When Abuelita comes to California, Tío Luis and Tío Marco no longer have any power over Esperanza’s family.


The outcome, resolution, or denouement occurs in the final chapter when Esperanza and Miguel listen to the earth. This happens a full year after the tragedy of her father’s death. Esperanza has learned how to be rich in being poor.

Short Summary (Synopsis)

On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Esperanza’s father is murdered. Her cruel uncles, Tío Luis and Tío Marco want Mama to marry Tío Luis (who has inherited the land) or sell the house to him for much less than it is worth. Mama refuses. Soon after, the house burns down. Mama tells Tío Luis that she will marry him in order to stall him until they can escape from Mexico.

Mama and Esperanza, along with their former servants Alfonso, Hortensia and Miguel, leave for California in the middle of the night. They must leave Esperanza’s grandmother, Abuelita, behind because she hurt her ankle in the fire.

After a long trip to California, Esperanza is shocked to see where they will be living. They must share two small cabins at a workers’ camp with Alfonso’s brother’s family of five. Esperanza’s first duty is to watch baby Lupe and baby Pepe while their parents work, as well as to sweep the platform. Esperanza must learn to do many things she has never done before.

One day, there is a dust storm and Mama gets very sick with Valley Fever. Mama must go into the hospital. Esperanza begins doing adult work so she can pay Mama’s medical bills and save to bring Abuelita to California. In the meantime, a strike begins. Esperanza and the other women are in danger from the snakes and glass the strikers put in their baskets. Finally, Immigration comes and clears the strikers away.

Esperanza also learns about the discrimination Mexicans face in the United States. They must drive farther to go to a grocery store that does not discriminate against Mexicans. Isabel is not chosen to be Queen of the May, despite having the best grades in the class. Miguel must give up his job at the railroad to men from Oklahoma. Esperanza tells Miguel that he is still a peasant in America. The next day, Miguel is gone.

Mama eventually comes home from the hospital. When Esperanza goes to show Mama the money she has saved to bring Abuelita home with, she discovers Miguel has taken her money orders. Esperanza is angry with Miguel and not pleased when he sends a message for her to come with his parents to pick him up at the bus station. However, when Esperanza meets him, she sees that he has brought Abuelita to California. This is the turning point in the plot because Esperanza realizes that there is some reason to hope in this new land. Soon after, Esperanza and Miguel go to the foothills and she is able to hear the earth’s heartbeat again. On her fourteenth birthday Esperanza is grateful for everything she has, even though she has none of the material goods she had the year before.

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