Posted: August 7th, 2013
Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
‘Eleven’ is the story of Rachel, an eleven-year-old child, who feels vulnerable under the adult supervision during her eleventh birthday and goes ahead to learn from her fear by the end of the day (Cisneros, 2011). This story by Sandra Cisneros uses Rachel’s literary characteristics as would be exhibited by an eleven year old. There being great use of symbolism, diction, dialogue and narrator’s point of view, it provides a basis of understanding on the proper application of these tools in narration to capture the readers understanding hence providing a literary background.
The story relays Rachel’s embarrassment of her helplessness in a manner that makes use of literary styles such as similes, symbolism and repetitiveness. The choice of words that she employs in similes suggests her age, for example, by stating how her confidence rattles like “pennies in a tin Band-Aid Box” (Cisneros, 2011). Though her ability to convey her feeling is evident throughout the story, she fails to understand the deeper meaning of what she feels as she tries figuring out why others are mean to her or why she feels how she does.
In this story, the eleven year old understands that people act according to their age and associates greater age with correctness. Thus, she lets her teacher, Mrs. Price tell her what to do to which she meekly obliges. She also associates greater age with confidence and hopes that she would be a hundred and two years old then (Cisneros, 2011). She eventually understands that an individual is built by the amount of experience gained, hence her confidence grows as she realizes that, for her age, she has been able to overcome the challenges she has faced so far.
In this essay, Sandra depicts Rachel as the first person narrator. The story is told in the first person in the manner that a journal or a diary is written. Rachel utilizes internal dialogue as one relaying her inner thoughts and freely expresses her feelings and emotions making use of literary devices. For example, when describing her sweater, which she is later forcefully made to wear by her teacher, she describes it as “sitting there like a big red mountain” (Cisneros, 2011). This exaggeration enables the reader to understand the level of burden that Rachel viewed that sweater to be.
This is aimed at helping the reader to understand the thinking of an eleven year old, to understand the insecurities they face explaining their view on adult supervision and commands. These commands make them scared, for example; in Rachel’s case, she is only capable of answering her teacher in her meek year-old voice. Rachel goes through the day, waiting for the moment she would go back home to the security that her parents offer. This narration also reveals the nature of Rachel’s thoughts that are curious and yet passionate. She has a mature ability to describe feelings and situations using different literary styles.
Use of literary styles
There is a great use of literary styles in this story, especially the use of similes. These are used to exaggerate her situation, or to magnify the magnitude of the situation she finds herself in hence enabling the reader to clearly understand her feeling of helplessness and lack of confidence. She describes her crying as crying like hiccups, describing her wish to be away from that situation like a tiny balloon (Cisneros, 2011). There is also extensive use of symbolism in the story. Another style used is repetition where Rachel repeats the words “not mine” six times a child would (Cisneros, 2011). This cements the idea of the eleven year old in the reader’s mind.
The setting of the story is the school, which Rachel attends in the presence of the teacher, Mrs. Price and other students. Here in her young mind, Rachel feels like the teacher is constantly humiliating her and the other people are mean to her. It is her eleventh birthday where she feels that she lacks the experience hence her confidence is low. For instance, in the story, she says that her confidence “rattles like pennies in a tin Band-Aid Box” (Cisneros, 2011); hence, we are able to deduce that Rachel feels intimidated. We are also able to understand of her insecurity and lack of confidence as she wishes she were older as she relates age to confidence. Rachel, being in the presence of her teacher, feels intimidated and lacks confidence as the teacher dominates the scenario, leaving her no choice but to follow what she is told.
Symbolism is the technique of using an object or situation to indirectly mean something else, that is, attributing a meaning to an event or object that would otherwise seem normal to another user. In the story, while refusing to wear the sweater Rachel repeats the words not mine six times (Cisneros, 2011). The number six is often connected to the meaning trial and error; hence, it is symbolically used in this context to show Rachel trial and failure to succeed in avoiding wearing the dreaded sweater. The name Rachel in ancient Hebrew meant a pure individual or a little lamb. As this gives a vulnerable image, it fits perfectly with the narrator, who is a vulnerable innocent child. Mrs. Price is also significant as Price is a Welsh surname associated with masculinity. Masculinity depicts power and authority, hence the teacher is given this name to associate her with authoritativeness which would enable the reader to understand why Rachel is unable to have a say when the teacher talks.
The story told by Sandra is of an eleven-year child, and while it expresses childlike wishes narrated like an eleven year old would, the insight portrayed by the child is much deeper than what would be portrayed by a normal eleven-year-old child. For instance, Rachel shows the childlike nature of Rachel by saying how she would wish to be as far away from that place like a balloon gone so far into the sky that it appears as a tiny ‘o’(Cisneros, 2011). When she is told by her teacher to put on her sweater, she wishes that she was aged a hundred and two. Hence, this shows that age relates closely to wisdom. Rachel also portrays wisdom surpassing her age where she says that when one is eleven they can show character traits of all the ages below that age. This is because they have experienced that age and have knowledge of the feelings and emotions experienced at each age (Cisneros, 2011). Therefore, the author contrasts both wisdom surpassing the age of the narrator together with immaturity that is below the narrator’s age bringing a sense of conflict in the narrator’s character.
This narration therefore can put the reader in the child’s position and help them to understand the child’s point of view. The various literary styles used, help in making the child’s understanding comprehensible to the reader. Therefore, the writer successfully manages to make the story relevant to people of all ages helping them identify with the events and apply the lessons appropriately in their lives.
Cisneros, Sandra. “ELEVEN”. Exploring Literature. Prentice Hall. 2011. Print.
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