Alliteration in The House on Mango Street

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

Alliteration is a literary device that many authors use in their works. In this lesson, you'll learn about how Sandra Cisneros uses alliteration in her novella, ''The House on Mango Street.''

Alliteration

Have you ever tried to do a tongue twister? One well-known one is 'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.' Tongue twisters are an everyday example of alliteration, which is when a beginning, consonant sound is repeated several times throughout a phrase. In that tongue twister, it's the 'p' sound. Alliteration is also a common literary device. It's often associated with poetry, but novelists use it, too. One novella that makes good use of alliteration is Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street.

Usage

There are a number of reasons why an author might use alliteration. In this lesson, we'll focus on just a couple. One is that it serves as an attention grabber. Alliteration can draw a reader to a certain passage, and help them focus on a particular person, event, etc. that is important in that passage. The second is that alliteration can enhance the descriptive quality of a sentence. That is, it can be added in to a description to make it stronger or more emotionally charged.

Examples and Analysis

Rachel and Lucy

One example of alliteration in Cisneros' novella occurs when the narrator, Esperanza, meets her new neighbors, Rachel and Lucy. Esperanza describes Rachel and Lucy to us, commenting that, 'They are wearing shiny Sunday shoes without socks.' There is quite a bit of alliteration of the 's' sound in this sentence, which draws the reader's attention to the passage, and the girls being described. This one sentence points out that they are simultaneously nicely dressed and unkempt, which adds to their character, and helps point out that they are important.

The Family of Little Feet

Another place we see alliteration put to good use is in the narrator's description of another of their neighbors. She simply refers to them as 'the family of little feet,' and we never get any of their names. The mother of the family comes over to their yard, and Esperanza describes her movement: 'The mother's feet, plump and polite, descended like white pigeons from the sea of pillow…' Here, the alliteration is of the 'p' sound.

Once again, alliteration draws our attention to this description, marking it as slightly more important than the descriptions of the other family members that Esperanza gives. This is because the mother is instrumental in what happens during the rest of the chapter. She brings over the fancy shoes that Esperanza and her friends run around in, which is the main focus of that section of the book. By using alliteration, Cisneros is able to draw our attention to the mother and indicate her importance.

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