An Analysis of Sandra Cisneros’ “Alicia Who Sees Mice”
Commentary by Karen Bernardo
It’s amazing that an author can tell an entire story in two short paragraphs, and yet Sandra Cisneros’ “Alicia Who Sees Mice” accomplishes this and more. On a first reading, it seems so much has been left out of the story—including the background and a chronological sequence of events—that the remainder doesn’t make much sense. Like a poem, this story requires two or three readings in order to “get it.” And then, like a living thing, it just grows and grows.
Alicia is the first person in her family to attend college. Her father doesn’t think much of the idea, because doing her housework, perfecting her schoolwork, and accomplishing the long and convoluted commute to school by “two trains and a bus” requires her to stay up too late, and “a woman’s place is sleeping” so she can get up in time to pack her family’s lunches before dawn. For Alicia, the rising of Venus in the still-dark sky is not a herald of a bright new day but just the “tortilla star”—the signal that it is time to use the rolling pin she inherited from her mother to make the family’s tortillas.
Possibly because she is so sleep-deprived, possibly because she’s the only one up at such a late hour, Alicia sees mice in the kitchen at night. The mice, which her father claims do not exist, terrify Alicia. They symbolize for her both the poverty of her inherited lifestyle and the ease with which her future could scamper away. Cisneros says Alicia “is afraid of nothing except four-legged fur. And fathers.” It would seem she has good reason to be.
This story can be found in Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street.”
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