Esperanza Rising Study Guide


Major Theme

This idea is expressed in the story’s epigraph and conveys the major theme of the plot. This story shows how, despite set backs, people can overcome anything. This theme is expressed in Esperanza’s “rising,” or overcoming her tragic circumstances. This theme is also embodied in Miguel’s belief that anyone can succeed in America.

Minor Themes
"The rich person is richer when he becomes poor, than the poor person when he becomes rich."

This one may require reading several times to understand, but isn't a typo. This theme is also expressed as an epigraph to the novel. It is a Mexican proverb. Throughout much of this story Esperanza wonders how poor people can be happy with such simple things. She cannot understand the people on the train who are content as long as they have their families and their faith. When she meets Isabel, Esperanza is startled to see how poor girls live compared with her own wealthy past. However, Esperanza comes to appreciate and treasure simpler things when she becomes poor. After losing everything she has, as well as dealing with her mother’s sickness and Abuelita’s absence, Esperanza learns there are more important things in life than material objects. Esperanza becomes a richer person when she is poor because she realizes the value of what she has.

“Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand”

Papa says this to Esperanza in the beginning of the story and it is repeated throughout the rest of the book. All through Esperanza Rising, the reader sees how patience and hard work pay off. Esperanza works hard at her new life and patiently saves to pay Mama’s medical bills and buys money orders for Abuelita’s return. In time, Esperanza also learns to appreciate the simple aspects of her life. Esperanza’s patience and diligence pay off and she is rewarded greatly. Mama grows healthy, Abuelita returns, and it seems that Esperanza finds a renewed love in Miguel.

Mountains and Valleys

In the beginning of the story, Abuelita teaches Esperanza how to crochet a zigzag pattern, which she says is like going up a mountain and down into a valley. Throughout the remainder of the story Esperanza considers this instruction and eventually compares it with her own life. This statement illustrates an important theme in this book, which is that we encounter mountains and valleys throughout our lives. Life is not always simple. Bad things may happen to us, as they do to Esperanza. However, like Esperanza, we can always rise above them. We have happy times, or “mountains” as well as tough times, or “valleys” which can make us better, stronger people.


Inspirational. The overall feeling of this story is inspirational. Because of the metaphorical mountains that Esperanza overcomes, the reader is given the sense that no matter what, we can rise above our problems. Esperanza overcomes tremendous hardship and becomes a better, stronger individual.

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