In this article, you will find a list of quotes with explanation and analysis to discuss key parts of the novel, Esperanza Rising. These notes may be used for classroom discussion or for test review.
Use these quotes to review noteworthy text from the novel, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz-Ryan. Encourage students to use Esperanza Rising quotes and analysis to formulate a classroom debate. Do students agree or disagree with the analysis? Can they find evidence from the story to prove their point? Can they prove a trait they've chosen to describe a character based on one of the quotes? Which quotes explain themes, symbols, and conflicts? If individual assessment is your goal, encourage students to use the quotes as a basis for an essay assignment. There’s nothing like some noteworthy quotes to start a novel conversation.
“He who falls today may rise tomorrow." (Mexican proverb)
This proverb from the first page of the novel refers to a theme of hope within the novel. Esperanza and her family suffer hardship after hardship, and yet she overcomes her faults and perseveres for her loved ones because they are all she has.
- “Wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand," (p. 2)
Esperanza’s father meant this saying on many levels. As a rancher and vineyard owner, it was customary to speak of the richness of his land. But the reader can also conclude he is teaching his daughter about patience. Anything good is worth waiting for. It is a lesson worth repeating throughout the novel.
“No hay rosas sin espinas," (p. 14)
When Esperanza pokes her finger on a rose thorn, there is prolonged pain and it takes a while for the blood to stop flowing. Abuelita and Mama interpret this as a bad sign, but Abuelita reminds Esperanza that there are no roses without thorns. The reader can conclude the rose is a symbol for life. You cannot have beauty without pain, good without bad, ups without downs.
- “Do not be afraid to start over," (p. 15)
Esperanza did not know how to crochet very well, but Abuelita unraveled Esperanza’s errors and advised her to not be afraid of her mistakes. Take the time to correct them. Also, do not be afraid of change.
“We are like the phoenix," said Abuelita. “Rising again, with a new life ahead of us." (p. 50)
Abuelita’s comment is a reference to the mythological phoenix that dies in flames and rises again from its own ashes. Abuelita is trying to inspire Esperanza to look to the future with hope. With the murder of her father and the destruction of her home, Esperanza must also rise from the ashes. She must rebuild her foundation so that she can rise above her troubles and feel proud about who she is.
- “When you scorn these people, you scorn Miguel, Hortensia, and Alfonso. And you embarrass me and yourself. As difficult as it is to accept, our lives are different now." (p. 70)
After refusing to let a young girl with dirty hands touch her precious doll, Esperanza is astonished to discover her mother’s embarrassment. Mama must remind Esperanza of their new place in society. If Esperanza is going to adjust to her new life, she will have to shake off her old attitudes about propriety and do what is right and kind for people, especially since the only people they can turn to for help are the friends who once worked as their servants.
- “My father says that Mr. Yakota is a very smart businessman. He is getting rich on other people’s bad manners." (p. 188)
Miguel helps Esperanza see what the world is like outside the camp where they work. Mr. Yakota stocks his store with things his all of his customers need, including his Mexican customers. Only bad manners and ignorance would cause someone to fail to see that we’re all just people, people with families, with needs, with money to spend.
“In Mexico, I was a second-class citizen. I stood on the other side of the river, remember? And I would have stayed that way my entire life. At least here, I have a chance, however small, to become more than I was. You, obviously, can never understand this because you have never lived without hope." (p. 222)
Miguel must remind Esperanza of the social divisions they once lived by in Mexico. Even though he has tried to find work with the railroad, a job for which he is highly qualified, his ethnicity has interfered with him keeping his job, and yet at least in the United States he has a better chance of following his dreams. Miguel must defend his optimism to Esperanza. Esperanza was a privileged child, unlike Miguel who was the son of a peasant. He can only hope for a better future in a place where that future might be possible. She has yet to completely understand his perspective.
- “Yes, you would have made a beautiful queen but that would have lasted for only one day. A day goes by fast, Isabel. And then it is over." (227)
Esperanza consoles Isabel over not being chosen Queen of the May. Esperanza’s point is that each day brings changes. Cling to what is permanent and what has value: love, kindness, responsibility, respect, integrity. Since Esperanza is offering this advice, she has clearly learned this lesson for herself.
- As the sun rose, Esperanza began to feel as if she rose with it. Floating again, like that day on the mountain, when she first arrived in the valley. She closed her eyes, and this time she did not careen out of control. Instead, she glided above the earth, unafraid. She let herself be lifted into the sky, and she knew that she would not slip away." (249)
This reference to the phoenix once more brings the plot of the novel full circle. Once again, Esperanza has hope for the future. She is now willing to let go of her past attitudes and rise above the problems of the present so that she can change and build a brighter future for herself.
- “Miguel had been right, about never giving up, and she had been right, too, about rising above those who held them down." (250)
Esperanza finally recognizes the reason for Miguel’s optimism. She also lends a second meaning to the ‘rising’ reference in that she will not let other people hold her back. She must rise above petty differences and social ignorance and maintain hope that one day things will be better.
These Esperanza Rising quotes and analysis can be used as the basis for classroom discussion and debate, as text evidence in an essay, or to help define reasoning for character trait and motivation. With practice, identifying relevant quotes and providing analysis will become second nature to students, which in turn will help them to become insightful readers.
Muñoz-Ryan, Pam. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2000.