Esperanza tells her readers about how Marin met a boy named Geraldo at a dance. Marin did not know it at the time, but she would be the last person to see Geraldo alive. He was killed after the dance in a hit-and-run accident. Marin cannot explain why the incident shakes her so, why it possesses such significance for her; after all, she did not know Geraldo. "What does it matter?" Esperanza asks the question, but instead of leaving it hanging unanswered, she speaks of the apartments Geraldo rented, the money he sent home to a family who now wonders where he is. "Geraldo-he went north. we never heard from him again."
The unspoken but plain answer to the question, "What does it matter?," is that "it matters" because Geraldo matters. He is a human being, and human beings are not to be lightly dismissed. Cisneros is telling us again (see "Cathy Queen of Cats," for example, or "There Was An Old Woman.") that people count, even "Geraldo No Last Name." Readers may note the absence of Geraldo's last name as significant; in Cisneros' novel, as in much literature and human culture in general, the name symbolizes identity. Part of the message of The House on Mango Street may be that human beings cannot allow each other to be nameless, to be disconnected, to be stripped of identity, to be dismissed as not mattering-"Ain't it a shame." This imperative-to resist the dehumanization of people-takes on special significance when the people who stand to be diminished are minority members of a society, as is the case with Geraldo.
Furthermore, this vignette is significant because it offers us our first glimpse at Esperanza as a self-conscious storyteller (see "Born Bad," "Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes"). Obviously, Esperanza has been telling stories since the very first scene of this novel. Here, however, she is, presumably, providing Geraldo with a story-in effect, naming him by bestowing upon him a narrative. Yes, Esperanza's narrative is, sadly, an entirely plausible one; Esperanza can easily draw its details from real life. It is not "fantastic," but-so far as readers can know-it is fictional. Realistic fiction, but fiction all the same. Yet, in the paradoxical power of such narratives, this fiction speaks the truth. Esperanza does not know Geraldo, any more than Marin did-Esperanza never even met Geraldo. But, by telling a story about him, Esperanza nevertheless allows us, her audience, both to meet and to know Geraldo. The narrative gives him back his humanity and saves him from becoming a mere statistic, just one more traffic fatality, and a Hispanic minority member of the community, at that. Esperanza's brief narrative about Geraldo, then, demonstrates something of story's liberating power, the power that Aunt Lupe told Esperanza writing possesses (see "Born Bad"). This vignette helps lay the foundation for the book's end, where Esperanza emerges as a mature (chronologically and emotionally, spiritually) storyteller.
The House on Mango Street: Novel Summary: Geraldo No Last Name