Growing up is something every individual has to encounter. It’s an unstoppable and unwanted part of life. In the “Monkey Garden” Esperanza deals with her realization that she is growing up. The overall theme is growing up. This is hinted and foreshadowed throughout the story. Sandra Cisneros’ use of symbolism depicts Esperanza’s feelings of grief toward the unstoppable reality that she is growing up The monkey garden itself is an important symbol. Monkeys are often associated with the act of being carefree, fun, and childish. This parallels to Esperanza; at this point she was still a child.
In the middle of the story Esperanza commented “This is where I wanted to die” (96). Her attraction to the monkey garden is there to show her state of mind. She wants to stay as a child. In the first line “The monkey doesn’t live there anymore. The monkey moved… ” depicts that Esperanza is growing up (94). The garden doubles as Esperanza’s state of maturation. While the monkeys symbolizes her childhood. Unbeknownst to Esperanza is over. The green metal cage further supports this interpretation. The monkeys being kept in a green cage symbolizes youth and newness.
The loss of childhood just recently happened. While the cage symbolizes that childhood is locked up. Furthermore the porcelain table is used to depict that Esperanza relied on her innocence. She used the monkey garden as “Monkey, family, table. All gone” foreshadows Esperanza’s realization that she is getting older (94). The monkey “screaming and showing its yellow teeth” symbolizes Esperanza unapparent fear of growing up (Cisneros 94). She is strongly opposed to the idea. The importance of the monkey’s teeth being yellow symbolizes transfiguration. Esperanza has begun the process of maturation.
The way objects in the garden are described further hints at the story’s overall theme. The “Cockscombs bleeding the deep red fringe of theater curtains” symbolizes the onset of puberty, menstruation (Cisneros 94). The “Big green apples hard as knees” is a recurring symbol of youth. These apples are no longer present in the garden support that Esperanza’s youth is fading. The “yellow spiders ran” were “afraid of light rolled over in their sleep” foreshadows Esperanza’s reaction to growing up (Cisneros 95). The significance of the spider being yellow symbolizes Esperanza’s cowardice.
The spider symbolizes mystery and our life choices. Soon enough Esperanza will gain more responsibility and will be faced with difficult choices. Such as, whether or not to walk down the same path Sally has. The “Few blue-skinned beetles” also foreshadows Esperanza’s realization (Cisneros 95). Blue symbolizes the truth that Esperanza is growing older. The “flowers stopped obeying the little bricks that kept them growing beyond their paths” symbolizes the sense of individuality and independence. Children onset of puberty become rebellious. They begin to make their own choices and become their own person.
These flowers are also connected to Esperanza. She held on to her innocence while Sally freely gave hers away. The motifs “sleep” and “dead” reveals Esperanza’s state of maturation. The description of the garden is personified as dead or asleep, such as “The sleepy smell of rotting wood,” “blue-blond hair of the dead,” “Dead cars appeared,” and “sleepy cars” (Cisneros 95). The repetition of “sleep” symbolizes that Esperanza’s adulthood is still asleep. It still lies ahead and one day will be awakened. While the repetition of “dead” symbolizes her childhood days.
They are over and Esperanza is unable to bring them back. With these words repeated throughout the excerpt it hints at the story’s overall theme: growing up. The cars found in the garden symbolize the old childhood days and the new journeys that lie ahead. The “Dead cars appeared overnight like mushrooms” represents Esperanza’s old childhood memories (Cisneros 95). The “Pale blue pickup” along with the other “Sleepy cars” symbolizes Esperanza’s new destinations in life (Cisneros 95). The significance of “The front windshield missing” represents Esperanza’s state of maturation (Cisneros 95).
The missing windshield symbolizes how children aren’t prepared to grow up. Similar to driving without a windshield. The importance of the pickup truck being “pale blue’ symbolizes truth. The garden is also a symbol for the process of maturation; “The monkey garden had been there before anything” (Cisneros 96). It is something that is timeless, unstoppable, and it affects everyone. Esperanza’s comment “Beneath the roots of soggy flowers were the bones of murdered pirates and dinosaurs, the eye of a unicorn turned to coal” tells of children’s forgotten dreams (Cisneros 96).
The monkey garden is where childhood innocence goes to die, specifically Esperanza’s. It’s in the monkey garden where Esperanza fully understands the joke. The flowers symbolizes the bloom of new life, as a young woman. The “bones of the murdered pirates and dinosaurs” symbolizes the death of childish games. While the “eye of a unicorn turned to coal” is the death of childlike imagination. The incident with Sally’s keys was the first apparent sign of Esperanza’s anguish. Sally’s keys are a symbol of power. The group of boys wanted an exchange of Sally’s power for sex. Which is a common theme, gender role wise.
Women were perceived as weak and powerless. Unknowingly Esperanza caught on that Sally exchanging her power for sex was wrong; “Only how come I felt angry inside. Like something wasn’t right” (Cisneros 97). Esperanza realizes that she doesn’t want to grow up in a world where women are unable to think for their selves. Esperanza became afraid to end up like Sally. A woman without power was their norm. The repetition of three is a symbol of Esperanza’s trials to understand the joke. Esperanza “Ran up three flights of stairs,” this line was mentioned three times (Cisneros 97).
In fairytales characters go through a series of “three feats” or three trials (Roberti). The fairy tale connation of this symbol can be used to symbolize Esperanza’s childishness. Fairy tales are often related to children. In this instance it helps to prove that she maintained some of her childlike innocence right before it was taken away from her. In each trial she was tested. The first trial was the initial time proving that the boys were wrong. The second was try to reason to Tito’s mother why what the boys were doing was wrong. The third was when she “Took three big sticks and a brick” in order to reason with the boys (Cisneros 97).
Each time she was tested whether or not she understood the joke. Her view of the boys doing wrong were rejected respectively. Her prize from her trials was her realizing that she is no longer a child. Once Esperanza finally understood the joke she lost her childlike perception. Her green dress lacked its youthful luster. Her dress reflected how envious she was of her old life. She no longer saw her outfit as cute; her “white socks and ugly round shoes” lost their novelty. Unlike her socks, whereas white symbolized her purity and innocence. Esperanza lost her innocence.
She commented that her feet “Seeme away. They didn’t seem to be my feet anymore. (Cisneros 98). She felt disconnected with herself. Here is when she realized that she was no longer a child. Esperanza also saw her garden as something that “Didn’t seem mine either” (Cisneros 98). Childhood is something that is no longer hers. Esperanza like many other children had to experience the loss of their childhood. The monkey garden symbolized her childhood innocence. Without her special place Esperanza became lost and disconnected. She didn’t want to grow up in a world where she couldn’t control her life.