Another of Esperanza's neighbors, Alicia, complains to her father about mice. Her father says she is imagining them, or simply tells her to close her eyes. Alicia's mother is dead, leaving Alicia, the oldest child, as the only responsible figure in the household. Alicia is strong, caring for her siblings while studying at a university across town; and she is "afraid of nothing except four-legged fur. And fathers."
In this vignette we meet another girl-actually, a young woman-whom Esperanza admires-"Is a good girl, my friend."-for her fearlessness and strength (see "Marin"). With her characteristic economy of language, Cisneros sketches the sad outlines of Alicia's situation. The mice Alicia sees could be (and, given the poverty-stricken setting of the narrative, most likely are) literal, but they are also symbolic of the ugly issue Alicia sees that her father tells her to ignore, or does not exist: the fact of her abuse-physical, sexual, likely both-by that same father. Why else, readers must surely wonder, would Alicia fear fathers, as Esperanza tells us that Alicia does? A young woman, thrust into the position of mother, possibly seen by her father as a surrogate wife-the circumstances suggest strongly that Alicia is the victim of incest and assault. Too often, society chooses to treat these problems the way Alicia's father wants her to treat the mice: deny them, ignore them. Cisneros refuses to let her readers do that, even as she does not explicitly name those realities (a tactic, incidentally, perfectly in keeping with Esperanza's point of view, for Esperanza, still a girl, does not yet have the language to name and discuss them). Readers should compare this vignette with "Edna's Ruthie" and "What Sally Said," other glimpses of abuse toward the women of Mango Street.
The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: Alicia Who Sees Mice