Gil is an elderly African-American who owns what Esperanza calls a "junk store." One day, in the midst of the items Gil buys and tries to resell, he points out to Nenny a music box. Esperanza thinks Gil must be talking about "a pretty box with flowers painted on it, with a ballerina inside," but the box turns out to be "just a wood box that's old" with a brass record inside. Esperanza pretends that she does not care about the music box "so Nenny won't see how stupid" she is. Nenny wants to buy the music box; Gil tells her it is not for sale.
In this vignette, we see both disillusionment and dreams at work. Esperanza has one mental picture of a music box-a mental image that fits a dream of a prettier, more beautiful life (just as she desires a prettier, more beautiful house; see "The House on Mango Street")-and is disappointed, or disillusioned, when she sees Gil's antique model. She finds, however, to her surprise-which accounts for why she feels "stupid" in the next moment-that the antique music box, with its strange sound, can nonetheless sound the same beauty for her, can awaken within her those same dreams. And readers can further discern that the music box represents just those kinds of dreams and hopes for Gil. He will not sell the music box (even if Nenny could buy it). Esperanza, therefore, is not the only resident of the neighborhood with hopes for beauty and a better life. She is connected to Gil, even if she is not aware of it and could not express that connection. The scene thus subtly develops the theme of the Mango Street community's interconnected nature, which runs throughout the novel.
The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: Gil's Furniture Bought & Sold