Eleven


Word Count: 575

"Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros, uses many literary devices to
characterize a complex eleven-year-old. Rachel, the
ingenuous 1st person narrator, relates the details of her
humiliating eleventh birthday. Although her diction reflects
her age, Rachel conveys the difficulty of growing up with
adult precision. She is embarrassed and feels helpless, but
knows she will soon be home with her parents, and her
terrible day will drift away. Rachel\'s age is given away not
only by the title, but by her word choice. She employs
numerous similes, describing crying like uncontrollable
hiccups, drinking milk to fast, and little animal noises. Her
confidence rattles like "pennies in a tin Band-Aid Box," and
she is always on the edge of lapsing into another session of
tears. However, Rachel\'s diction does not simple betray her
age. Descriptions like "smells like cottage cheese" are
insights into her true personality. She is passionate and
curious, almost to a fault. Because she describes things like
runaway balloons, she is a believable eleven-year-old. First
person narration reveals though Rachel\'s thoughts are those
of a typical eleven-year-old her descriptive ability is more
mature. Rachel has an uncanny ability to convey her feelings.
However, because she is an ingenuous narrator, she
sometimes misses the deeper significance of her feelings.
Although she twice mentions she is looking forward to cake,
her birthday song, and normal birthday things, she does not
mention she also needs the comfort of her parents. On the
other hand, unlike most older, or mature, people, she
understands enough about life experience to know she does
not have enough. Twice she mentions she would like to have
the experience of someone who is one hundred and two. At
eleven Rachel realizes that with experience comes
confidence, personal strength, and most important to her,
knowing what to do in hostile situations. As amazing as those
thoughts are, Rachel\'s most impressive thought is about age.
She understands that people display the characteristics of the
ages they have passed. She understands that although she is
eleven, she can still be scared like she is five, or cry like she
is three. What she does not grasp is that people can display
characteristics beyond their years. Rachel displays that
advanced maturity in her thoughts. The only dialogue in the
story is between Rachel and her teacher, Mrs. Price. Every
conversation is the same, Mrs. Price does not listen to
Rachel and dominates their conversations. Rachel associates
being right with being older, so she lets Mrs. Price have her
way. Mrs. Price is so dominating Rachel can respond with
what she calls her four- year-old voice. She stumbles for a
reply, eventually saying only, "Not mine, not mine." Rachel is
helpless and feels sick inside as she is forced to wear that
sweater. So much emphasis is given to what Rachel is
thinking, but the dialogue can show her outward personality.
Rachel is non-confrontational, timid, and shy. Rachel
desperately wants her terrible day to be over. She wants to
be one-hundred and two, because then days like this one
would be far behind. After she is brought to tears and
reluctantly she puts on the sweater and even though she did
not have to wear the sweater long, she is changed. She
realizes facing challenges is at the foundation of experience.
Her old self floats away like a balloon. Sandra Cisneros\'s
"Eleven" uses point of view, diction, dialogue, and symbolism
to characterize an eleven year old\'s coming of age. The
unique characteristics of an eleven- year-old have allowed
her to make important discoveries about growing up. Rachel
survives her humiliation, and becomes smart eleven. She
feels smart eleven, and a almost a year sooner than usual.
Rachel realizes that people are the sum of their experience.
She desperately wants to be one hundred and two, but
realizes that her experience adds up to eleven.