Esperanza Rising Study Guide

Theme Analysis

"He who falls today may rise tomorrow"- An epigraph, or quotation at the beginning of a literary work, typically conveys the work’s major theme. At the beginning of Esperanza Rising, the author presents two Mexican proverbs. Each proverb is an important theme of the book, but the first proverb is the story’s major theme.

This story shows how, despite set backs, people can overcome anything. This theme is expressed in Esperanza’s “rising,” or overcoming her tragic circumstances. In the beginning of the story, Esperanza is on top of the world. She has everything a thirteen-year-old girl could want: a loving family, a best friend, a beautiful home, and nice things. Suddenly Esperanza loses everything she has. Her “fall” seems like the end of her life. Esperanza has a difficult time coping with her new life. However, when Mama gets sick, Esperanza realizes how important the things are that she has after she loses her home and the lifestyle she had in Mexico. Esperanza “rises” when she learns how rich she has become in losing her wealth. The reader sees that no matter how bad things may seem there is always hope. After her transformation, Esperanza (whose name means “hope” in Spanish) embodies hope for the future.

This theme is also exemplified in Miguel’s belief that anyone can succeed in America. Despite the deplorable conditions in which Miguel and the others live, Miguel believes that he can work hard and move beyond his condition. Miguel believes that America is the land in which anyone can rise.

Point of View Analysis

Third person. This novel is told by a narrator, who only has access to Esperanza’s thoughts.

Important Quotes

“"Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand" -- Papa, p. 2.

This quotation is significant because it becomes an important theme in the novel. Papa says this to Esperanza when she is a child and he is teaching her to listen to the earth. This statement is repeated throughout the story by various characters. By the story’s conclusion Esperanza learns the importance of patience and hard work. She learns the value of the simple things.

“"In Mexico we stand on different sides of the river." -- Miguel, p. 37.

Miguel says this to Esperanza after she pulls away from his touch as he tries to console her following Papa’s death. This statement is significant because it shows the class barriers which are firmly in place in Mexico. Even though Esperanza loves Miguel and her parents are kind to his family, as a child her parents tell her she can never marry Miguel because he stands on a different side of the river than she. In the story’s denouement Esperanza has accepted her new position in life and holds Miguel’s hand, signaling that they are now on the same side of the river.

"We are like the phoenix… Rising again, with a new life ahead of us." -- Abuelita, p.50.

Abuelita says this to Esperanza after the family has decided to move to California, leaving Abuelita behind. This statement is significant because it foreshadows what Esperanza thinks is impossible at the time: she will overcome her hardships and rise again.

"I hear that in the United States, you do not need una planca. That even the poorest man can become rich if he works hard enough." -- Miguel, p. 75.

Miguel says this to Esperanza when she wonders what will happen to his dream of working at the railroads without Papa’s influence. This statement is important because it illustrates Miguel’s faith in America. He never loses hope that in American he can overcome his unfortunate circumstances.

"The rich take care of the rich and the poor take care of those who have less than they have." -- Miguel, p.79.

In this quotation Miguel explains to Esperanza how a poor woman could have given her mother a chicken, when she had so little. This statement illustrates the sentiment of many poor Mexicans during the revolution and the years following it.

"Well my father died, too…. Before he came to this country, he fought in the Mexican revolution against people like her father who owned all the land." -- Marta, p. 97.

Marta says this when she learns that Esperanza’s father is dead. Marta has no sympathy for Esperanza because she associates her with the wealthy landowners in Mexico. Marta exemplifies how many poor Mexicans felt. She also shows how even rich people are stereotyped. Marta assumes Esperanza’s father was a selfish rich man, when he was actually generous and kind.

"So you can climb." -- Miguel, p. 124.

Miguel says this when he shows Esperanza how he has placed her rosebush next to a trellis. This quotation shows how Miguel is a kind person who wants to help Esperanza “rise.” It is Miguel who finally helps Esperanza complete her figurative rise from the ashes when he brings Abuelita to California.

"Is this life really better than being a servant in Mexico?" -- Esperanza, p. 222.

Esperanza asks Miguel this question when she learns he had to relinquish his position at the railroad to men from Oklahoma. She does not yet understand Miguel’s belief that hard work will eventually help him prevail. No matter how hard Miguel worked in Mexico, he would not be able to succeed.

"I have brought you proof that things will get better." -- Miguel, p. 238.

This statement signals the novel’s climax. When Miguel brings Abuelita to California it proves to Esperanza that everything will be all right in California and in her new life. 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.

"Do not ever be afraid to start over." -- Esperanza, p. 253.

Esperanza says this to Isabel at the novel’s conclusion. This statement shows what Esperanza has learned from her hardships. She has found that no matter what happens, she can start over and rise again.

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