Esperanza Rising Study Guide

Chapter Summaries With Notes & Analysis

**Note** Instead of numbering the chapters in Esperanza Rising, Pam Muñoz Ryan names them after the harvests. Muñoz Ryan says she decided to do this after the book was finished because she thought Esperanza’s life took on the rhythm of the harvests throughout the story. In some ways, the chapter titles represent metaphors which correspond to the development of the story. Los Higos - The Figs could relate to the smashed figs at harvest representing Esperanza’s crushed life and her feelings of resentment.

Pam Muñoz Ryan has described this book as being loosely based on her own grandmother Esperanza’s life in Mexico and the United States. As a child, her grandmother would describe her life in the farm labor camps. When she was an adult, her grandmother frequently reminisced of her life in Mexico. These stories inspired the book Esperanza Rising. While it is primarily a work of fiction, the story of Esperanza’s immigration to the United States is a close parallel to her own grandmother’s experiences and the historical depiction of the period is accurate. She has stated that the characters in the book are composites of many people, but not of any specific actual person directly.

Aguascalientes, Mexico

Papa tells seven-year-old Esperanza that the earth is alive and she can feel its heartbeat if she listens. Esperanza is impatient at first. Papa tells her she must be quiet and still. Papa says “wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand.” Esperanza feels happy as she lies on the ground and hears the earth’s heartbeat.

Notes-This chapter is a prologue to the plot. In a story, the prologue is a section that offers introductory information before the exposition. Unlike the exposition--which offers background information on the main characters and critical aspects of the plot-- this prologue works to grab the reader’s attention.

This prologue establishes an important theme in the book:“wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand.”

This statement 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.

Las Uvas, Grapes

Esperanza is allowed to cut the first bunch of grapes to begin the harvest. This is Esperanza’s favorite time of year because it is also her birthday. Each year Mama and Papa hold a big party to celebrate the harvest and her birthday.

Three weeks later, after the harvest is complete, the party preparations begin. Esperanza waits for Papa in the rose garden. While picking a rose, Esperanza cuts her thumb and notes that it is bad luck. Esperanza cuts more flowers. Even though Papa does not meet her, she leaves the garden. Inside the house, Mama reminds Esperanza that a cut from a rose signals bad luck. Esperanza and Mama are nervous that Papa has not returned yet. Bandits roam the land and attack wealthy landowners. Even though Papa is kind to his workers, often giving them land, the bandits kill anyone who is rich because so many are poor in Mexico.

Esperanza sits with Abuelita in Papa’s study. Abuelita teaches Esperanza how to crochet a zigzag pattern. Mama and Hortensia join Abuelita and Esperanza in the study. Tío Luis and Tío Marco arrive with Papa’s one-of a kind belt buckle, which someone has found. Every one becomes worried. Soon, Miguel and Alfonso return. They have Papa’s body in the back of their wagon. Papa has been killed.

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