The irony of life is that as you grow older you want to experience your youth again, while at the time you are young all you want is to be older.

Sandra Cisneros writes Eleven as a memoir through the eyes of an eleven year old. Turning eleven happens to be a tragic day for the main character, Rachel. Rachel is a fresh turning eleven year old who finds herself in an awful situation on her birthday. Forced to wear a raggedy old sweater that does not belong to her, she makes it defiantly clear about her feelings towards the clothing item. Rachel is characterized through various literary techniques such as diction, simile and vignette, which describe her character. She is a defiant little girl who out of stubbornness has to defy the sweater in her mind, although she is too timid to do so in front of her teacher. Though Rachel is eleven, she is not courageous to say no, but rather cries like a three year old, which gives an insight about Cisneros and her own childhood.

Cisneros portrays Rachel as a timid five year old when she describes her actions with the sweater on her desk. Rachel likens the sweater to a mountain on her desk, which by no means is a reasonable comparison because the sweater is not a gigantic onus, but merely a childish one.  This simile by Cisneros shows Rachel makes big issues out of nothing. The vignettes Cisneros uses to describe her actions prove the fact that Rachel is too timid. She first uses a ruler to push the sweater as far away from her possible, and then she moves her pencil, then the eraser and then finally the books. Cisneros writes this list of items Rachel moves to show her paranoia and unnecessary fear of a red piece of cloth. Clearly, Rachel makes much ado about nothing, which prompts one to think Cisneros might have been like that when she was a child.

Cisneros characterizes Rachel not only as stupidly timid, but also foolishly defiant. She repeats “not mine” in almost every paragraph. Cisneros repeats her diction like “not mine” throughout the passage to portray Rachel as a stubborn brat who cannot do anything to appease the current situation despite the fact that she just turned eleven. Once again, Cisneros’s vignettes are seen when Rachel moves her chair and thinks what she will do to the sweater during lunch.  She could not wait to throw the sweater “over the schoolyard fence, or leave it hanging on a parking meter, or bunch it up in to a little ball and toss it in the alley.” This elaborate detail concerning the future of the sweater shows just how defiant Rachel is when it comes to small and silly matters. Her colloquial diction such as “bunch it up” shows her anger towards a piece of cloth because her diction indicates what she is going to do with it. Apparently, Rachel is only irritating herself with her defiance.

Cisneros characterizes Rachel as a timid and defiant girl who takes silly matters too seriously and foolishly. Throughout the passage Cisneros’s use of repeated and colloquial diction, similes and vignettes prove that Rachel is a brat. Rachel is too shy to say no to Mrs. Price and too defiant to let the smelly piece of cloth sit on her desk. Rachel’s characterization in short story represents Cisneros long past childhood as well. Cisneros distinct style of numerous similes, many vignettes and overtly familiar colloquial diction makes one wonder what Cisneros responses were to events in her childhood, if not similar.   

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  • Rob on Oct 28, 2011

    I think you’re missing the ultimate point of this experience and the genius of Rachel. Yes, she is a child and somewhat immature. She recognizes her immaturity, though, and makes the connection between maturity and experience. She wishes she were 102 so she had the confidence to speak up and advocate for herself. That mountain in front of her is an obstacle the must be surmounted. Rachel can’t, because she isn’t strong enough. She professes that she isn’t old enough, and yet, the foresight to recognize how age gives you confidence and experience is well beyond her years. And, Mrs. Price shows a lack of maturity in her insistence on Rachel taking the sweater and her negligence in not apologizing for upsetting her student. Rachel learns from this valuable lesson and becomes “older” for having gone through it. She recognizes the scaffolding of ages, and she gives a great insight into the human condition. No matter how old you become, you can still sometimes “be five”. We all have some element of childhood in us; we simply learn, through age and experience, how to better cope with it.

  • pepa on May 13, 2012

    its a very good story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 I like it a lot

  • pepa on May 13, 2012

    its a very good story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 I like it a lot

  • sereen on Oct 28, 2012

    and me I like It a lot

  • T LO on Oct 31, 2012

    Your use of “brat” is kinda insulting. It was a very good story. I can’t fathom why having to possess a ugly sweater, is such a traumatic experiences for Rachel. Why guys?

  • linda hagerty on Oct 31, 2012

    It is traumatic because Rachel is too powerless to tell the teacher it is not her sweater, and she knows she should stand up for herself and can\’t. Rachel takes her anger out on the stupid, smelly sweater because she can. At 11, she is no longer a child, but does not have the confidence to advocate for herself like she would if she were 102. Her frustration comes from knowing that she should speak up, but can\’t. Rachel is too compliant with authority (teacher) and knowing this is part of her loss of innocence of childhood and gaining self knowledge on her path to adulthood. (Yes, I am an English teacher, and I teach this story!)

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