“On Turning Ten” and “The Monkey Garden” (summary)

In life, many encounter obstacles that force them to face the actualities and hardships in life which causes them to grow as a person. In the story “The Monkey Garden” and the poem “On Turning Ten”, the author and poet discuss the idea of facing bare reality which causes them to change their attitude towards childhood. Both readings teach how the main characters were fearful of becoming older and more mature. Although both characters yearn to stay young and hold creative mindsets, both Esperanza and the young boy face different and difficult situations that impact them individually both mentally and physically.

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The fear of growing up and the loss of innocence is portrayed throughout both characters by showing their yearn and desire to stay young. In the poem “On Turning Ten,” the young boy says: “This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. It is time to say goodbye to my imaginary friends, time to turn the first big number” (Collins 1). The young boy portrays how he wishes to stay young by emphasizing the farewell to his friends and stressing the beginning of sadness. Also, the young boy hints his yearning to stay young because of how he is wearing sneakers whilst walking throughout the universe. Therefore, the young boy does not wear formal shoes to signify maturity but rather wears casual footwear to indicate innocence. In “The Monkey Garden,” Esperanza always used her monkey garden as a safe haven until she finally states her concerns and thinks: “I wanted to go back with the other kids who were still jumping on cars, still chasing each other through the garden, but Sally had her own game.” (Cisneros 2). Esperanza highlights how she wants to play with the kids in her garden who were clearly having fun, but she feels pressured to fit into Sally’s expectations. After seeing this, Esperanza feels that her garden is no longer her safe place because she feels Sally and the boys invaded it. Overall, both characters yearn to stay young and live according to their own norms yet both the young boy and Esperanza feel pressured to fit into societies’ norms.

Esperanza and the young boy both show examples of creative and vivid imaginations throughout the story which portray the simplicity of childhood innocence. In “On Turning Ten”, the young boy expands on his imagination by stating: “At four I was an Arabian wizard. I could make myself invisible by drinking a glass of milk a certain way. At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince” (Collins 1). In the story, the young boy leaves vivid details of how creative his imagination was which shows the dreams a child could hold and how they only follow their own standards. Also, the young boy exemplifies how simplistic the mindsets and goals of children are by showing what their desires are. Eventually, these imaginations tie into the idea of innocence by showing how they fit into only their norms, not others.

Also, in “The Monkey Garden” Esperanza depicts how her imagination was incorporated into her safe haven by commenting: “We liked to think the garden could hide things for a thousand years. There beneath the roots of soggy flowers were the bones of murdered pirates and dinosaurs, the eye of a unicorn turned to coal” (Cisneros 1). In the quote, the author uses figurative language to emphasize how Esperanza’s imagination was laid out. For example, Cisneros uses a hyperbole to describe the way the garden could hold and hide things for a long-term period. In fact, Esperanza’s imagination is shown because of the infinite amount of possibilities she displays about the garden. Overall, Esperanza and the young boy represent how the imagination of a child could show the level of innocence the child has. Lastly, the imagination could signify and reveal the true beauty and simplicity of childhood.

In contrast, the young boy was facing internal pressures to succumb to society’s norms rather where Esperanza was forced to deal with bare reality head-on. In “On Turning Ten”, the young boy somberly states how his life quickly altered by expressing: “But now, I am mostly at the window watching the late afternoon light. Back then, it never fell so solemnly against the side of my tree house, and my bicycle never leaned against the garage as it does today, all the dark blue speed drained out of it” (Collins 1). The young boy explains how he is facing internal troubles by depicting the environment around him. For example, the young boy contrasts how the bike never fell against the garage the way it did that day which shows how the times are changing due to him turning ten. Also, the young boy sits mostly at the window which exemplifies how he feels solemn internally and how he watches life slowly pass him by.

In “The Monkey Garden”, Esperanza expresses her feelings about seeing Sally kissing the boys by stating: “I don’t know why, but something inside me wanted to throw a stick. Something wanted to say no when I watched Sally going into the garden with Tito’s buddies grinning. It was just a kiss, that’s all. A kiss for each one. So what, she said” (Cisneros 2). Esperanza feels uncomfortable when she sees Sally kissing the boys which leads Esperanza to change her once “safe haven” into an “intruded haven”. Also, Esperanza confronted the situation directly which led to her being hopeless in her garden. All in all, Esperanza deals with serious and direct situations whereas the young boy deals with internal, somber thoughts which both lead to the bare actuality of growing up.

Overall, both characters are impacted by the harsh reality of life which creates the longing to stay young. However, both characters hold vast imaginations which greaten their innocence but the mindsets eventually die out because of the major events they encountered. In the end, it is important to realize how precious time is and how quickly it passes us by.  

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“On Turning Ten” And “The Monkey Garden” (summary). (2021, May 22). Retrieved October 3, 2022 , from

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