An Analysis of "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros

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One of the greatest contradictions in the human experience is that of the child yearning to grow older, while the elder longs for a return to childhood. In her short story “Eleven” Sandra Cisneros brings this glaring contradiction to life through the elegant characterization of the little girl Rachel. Rachel both embodies the youth and inexperience of a child frustrated in a world where age is often tantamount to power, yet manages to display wisdom and perspective far beyond her age. This sophisticated characterization is accomplished with such techniques as an uncomplicated, childlike syntax and structure, basic diction, simile, and the biased sensory imagery and attention to detail that one might see in an emotional child. Using these devices, Cisneros brings this girl to life in a wholly believable and convincing manner that leaves the reader without any doubt that Rachel is an eleven-year-old girl. When you hear a child speak, their language is simple and unstructured, running on from one idea to the next with little subtlety or complexity. These patterns are echoed in the piece, even when complex ideas come into play, for instance at the very beginning of the piece Rachel informs us of the fact we are both our own age and the sum of our parts “What you don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven you’re also ten, and nine…and one. And when …” she is communicating a complex idea that many adults do not understand, but it is all basic diction with no ornamentation, stringing sentences together sentences with ‘and’ as children who have yet to complicate their sentences do. The entire story is built in this fashion, parsed into small paragraphs, each representing an idea in Rachel’s stream of consciousness as she retells her story. This effect is compounded through the line breaks, as the introductory sentence to the new

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