In a halting, childlike manner, Esperanza accuses Sally of lying: "It wasn't what you said at all. What he did. Where he touched me." Esperanza was waiting for Sally "by the red clowns. by the tilt-a-whirl" (presumably at some kind of fair), while Sally was away somewhere with a big boy, when another boy grabbed her by the arm and began to kiss her: "He said I love you, Spanish girl, I love you, and pressed his sour mouth to mine."
Cisneros' juxtaposition of the fair midway and clowns-common, innocent images of childhood-and the sexual "initiation" that Esperanza undergoes is nearly heartbreaking. The text does not explicitly state that Esperanza was raped, but readers can certainly draw the inference: "I couldn't make them go away. I couldn't do anything but cry. I don't remember. Please don't make me tell it all." Once more, if readers can set aside their visceral and appropriate reactions of disgust to the violation of Esperanza, they can pay attention to the connection of this event to language, to narrative, to story-that recurring, dominant theme of The House on Mango Street. "Please don't make me tell it all," says Esperanza-and yet readers can notice at least two things: (1) Ironically, in not telling it all, she is; and (2) part of the message of the novel (see, for example, "Minerva Writes Poems") is that "telling it all" leads to freedom, liberation, and empowerment. It may be that the only way for Esperanza to successfully make the transition through this terrible initiation of rape is to tell the story, to speak the narrative-to articulate the experience in the way she chooses, rather than to let the perpetrator dictate the terms by which the narrative is told. This vignette's final image, the chilling sight of the red clowns "laughing their thick-tongued laugh," is a harsh one, and seems to signal the reader that Esperanza is now truly cast out the garden (see "The Monkey Garden"), that her childhood is over, that her innocence is forever gone. How will Esperanza respond? What story will she now tell?
The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: Red Clowns