Esperanza reflects on the kind of house for which she hopes: "a house on the hill like the ones with the gardens where Papa works," a house where people "sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth." Esperanza vows that, when she owns her own house, she will not forget the kind of community from which she came, and she will open her attic to "[p]assing bums."
This vignette evokes not only Esperanza's continuing maturity-she used to go with her father to the gardens of rich people for whom he worked, but now she does not-but also her growing ability to articulate class differences within society. "House" in this vignette functions as a symbol of status: rich people, Esperanza notes, can afford to live "so close to the stars they forget" those who can't-which, as Cisneros has already shown us (see "Those Who Don't," for instance), is a mistake members of a society cannot afford to make. To that end, Esperanza vows that she will not make that mistake. She will open her house to the poor, so that it becomes more than a house. It will be a home, a place of belonging and acceptance. The poor staying in Esperanza's attic will not be "rats," as her dinner guests mistake them for, but "bums"-yet that word has no derogatory connotations, readers sense, for Esperanza. It is a simple acknowledgment that Esperanza's attic-guests-as opposed to her dinner-table guests, one could surmise-are poor, and yet deserve acceptance and welcome. Housing the "bums in the attic" will be, not an act of segregation, keeping them out of sight, but a true and genuine act of hospitality.
The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: Bums in the Attic