Essay Topic 1
Harvest is a time of celebration and reward. The farmer is rewarded for his hard work by the fruits of his labor. How might Papa's death so soon after harvest be a symbolic of something?
Essay Topic 2
In Chapter 2 of Esperanza Rising, Esperanza is at a low point and her grandmother reminds her of a story she has told Esperanza many times, the myth of the phoenix rising out of its own ashes. What is inspirational about this myth and why is it appropriate that Abuelita, rather than any other character, be the one to refer to this myth at this time?
Essay Topic 3
All of the chapter titles of this novel are names of fruit. After reading the novel, explain why Pam Munoz Ryan, the author might have chosen to title the chapters in this way.
Essay Topic 4
In the first chapter of Esperanza Rising...
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Describe how Esperanza matures and evolves over the course of the novel.
Esperanza grows and matures in several ways. At the beginning of the novel, she is a wealthy girl without a trouble in the world and is largely ignorant to the problems of people around her. However, her father's death starts a series of events that shatters Esperanza's sheltered bubble. She is forced to leave behind everything she knows and overnight, goes from a carefree young girl to a desperate migrant worker. Though she struggles to adapt to these changes, Esperanza becomes increasingly aware of the larger issues in the world - because now, they affect her directly. As the novel goes on, she takes on more responsibility as a caretaker and provider for her family and learns to show compassion for others.
Describe the similarities between Papa and Miguel (especially in the way they relate to Esperanza)
Both Papa and Miguel serve as protectors for Esperanza and comfort her in times of despair. Esperanza often sees parts of her father in Miguel. Both men also have a close relationship with nature and connect with Esperanza over this. They are patient, kind, and compassionate - even though they have completely different social backgrounds. At the beginning of the novel, Esperanza and Miguel are somewhat estranged due to the pressure of their class disparity. However, Esperanza learns to see beyond their superficial differences and realizes how much she cares about Miguel.
Describe the ways in which Marta serves as a catalyst in the novel.
Marta urges the strikers into action, but she also serves as a catalyst for Esperanza's change in perspective. She rallies the workers and helps call them to action in a similar way that she pushes Esperanza towards taking action to improve her own life. Before meeting Marta, Esperanza does not realize how lucky she is. However, Marta's hostility forces Esperanza to look truthfully at her past life and to stand up for herself when it is necessary.
How does the opening scene with Esperanza and her father shape her relationship with nature?
When Papa teaches Esperanza to hear the heartbeat of the land, Esperanza forms a connection with nature and her father. From that point on her life follows a seasonal pattern - the rotating crops affect her daily routine. However, she can always count on the fact that the seasons will change, and that fruit will always grow. She just has to be patient and listen to the earth.
Abuelita tells Esperanza while knitting, "do not be afraid to start over." How does Esperanza "start over?"
When Esperanza's father dies, she loses the stability of her family and her home. She must start over physically when she and Mama leave everything behind and move to the United States. Once she arrives in California, Esperanza has to start from scratch when it comes to contributing to the camp. She has no idea how to do chores or manual labor. Also, in the camp, it does not matter that Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy landowner, or that she once was a member of a higher social class - she must learn to work hard like everyone else, and she faces the same prejudices as all the Mexicans in America.
How does Esperanza learn from her elders?
Esperanza is fortunate to have many people around her who can guide her progress and help her cope with her circumstances. At the beginning of the novel, Papa teachers Esperanza to be patient and respect the cycles of nature. After Papa's death, Mama and Abuelita encourage Esperanza to stay positive and help her adapt to her rapidly changing life. Mama shows her daughter humility and how to be compassionate to others - regardless of social class. Miguel helps to keep Esperanza grounded when she is losing hope, while Josefina and Isabel teach the young girl how to do housework and pull her weight in the camp.
Describe the symbolism of Esperanza's doll and how it represents Esperanza's evolution over the course of the novel.
In the beginning of the novel, Esperanza's doll is a physical manifestation of her family's social status and wealth, as well as her connection to her father. Later, Esperanza refuses to share the doll with the a dirty child on the train, which demonstrates her immaturity and her denial about her new circumstances. At the end of the novel, Esperanza gives the doll to Isabel. This action is symbolic of Esperanza's personal growth. She has since realized that she does not need material objects to keep the memory of Papa alive.
Compare the trajectory of Esperanza and her family to the image of the rising phoenix.
Esperanza describes the phoenix as a bird that rises from the ashes. Esperanza, Mama, and Abuelita are left with nothing once Papa dies and their home burns down. Throughout the novel, they must start over again and again. In the United States, Mama must become a migrant worker. When she falls ill, Esperanza takes on the responsibility of making money for her family. Abuelita is injured and has to stay behind in Mexico. Ultimately, Esperanza's hard work, faith, and determination reunites her family. Just like the phoenix, Esperanza and her family persevere even when they have lost everything they ever cared about. They are able to recover, even after finding themselves in the most desperate possible position.
Describe the role of Marta in relation to Esperanza in the novel. How do they affect and learn from each other?
Marta serves as a foil for Esperanza in the novel. While Esperanza comes from a wealthy background, getting everything she ever wanted, Marta's origins are humble - she has had to fight for everything she has. Because they come from opposite social class backgrounds, Marta and Esperanza have very different opinions about the world. Marta is a woman of action - she calls the workers to strike and is not afraid to state her opinion. Initially, Esperanza is a bit more shy and insecure. For most of the novel, she acts in response to others rather than taking responsibility for her own actions. However, the two girls have similar relationships to their mothers, which is what motivates Esperanza to help Marta escape from the immigration officials during the strike.
How do Isabel and Esperanza help each other? Describe the mutual benefits of their relationship.
Initially, Isabel finds Esperanza's wealthy upbringing fascinating. She always asks Esperanza about her past life as if were a favorite fairy tale. However, the younger girl must help Esperanza learn to do chores and take care of the babies, as Esperanza has never done any manual labor in her life. Later, Esperanza gives her doll to Isabel to make her feel better after she has failed to earn the Queen of May crown at her school. The doll makes Isabel feel like a real queen instead of a temporary one.