Many adults agree that children today are growing up too fast. Currently, children are beginning to mature at earlier ages than in the past. In Sandra Cisneros’s short story, “Eleven,” the protagonist, Rachel, is one of these children. Rachel is a dynamic character who wakes up on her eleventh birthday to find that she still feels ten years old. Rachel questions the significance of age eleven when at school, she gets humiliated in front of her class by her teacher, and wishes she were older so she would know how to handle the situation.
Through Cisneros’s use of elementary similes, repetition, and imagery, Rachel’s childlike characteristics are revealed. Rachel’s young perspective on life is exposed through the comparisons she makes. Rachel feels no change when she turns eleven and describes growing “like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. ” The relationship between dolls and young girls shows Rachel’s childish personality.
When Rachel begins to feel nervous she wishes she “didn’t have only eleven years rattling inside [her] like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box. ” This comparison is typical of a child in that they usually associate money with counting pennies and playing games with them. Cisneros also uses a familiar object known to young children when Rachel says that her sweater is “all stretched out like you could use it for a jump rope. ” This comparison is typical of a child because a jump rope is often a toy in which young girls like to play Cassinelli 2
with. These similes Cisneros uses give the reader the visual images to imagine these events from an eleven year old’s point of view. The imagery used by Cisneros aids to prove Rachel’s age by the way Rachel handles the events that occur on her birthday while at school. When Rachel can stand no more humiliation from her teacher she describes that “[her] face [is] all hot and spit coming out of [her] until there aren’t any more tears left in [her] eyes. ” This visual image reflects a small child who is unable to control her feelings.
To express how the sweater feels toward Rachel, Cisneros uses tactile imagery when Rachel claims that the “sweaters all itchy. ” This imagery shows that Rachel was not only disgusted by the appearance by the sweater but that it was not comfortable either. Unlike adults, with children, the feeling of clothing is many times more important to them than the look of it. In Rachel’s use of olfactory imagery, she describes a stench familiar to children of the sweater by claiming that it “smells like cottage cheese.
” Just as many children do, Cisneros also uses repetition to convey the childlike tone. Rachel denies the sweater to be hers and in her mind repeats that it is “not mine, not mine, not mine. ” This irritating repetitious sound made mimics the voice of a whiney child. Rachel’s inability to tell her teacher that she does not own the sweater also exemplifies an eleven year old’s insecurities. As if trying to remember that it is her birthday, Rachel repeats the number “eleven” several times thorough out the poem.
Rachel reminds herself that “Today I’m eleven” and “I’m eleven today,” and she also reminds herself that “there’s a cake Mama’s making for tonight. ” In Rachel’s Cassinelli 3 repetition of reminding herself that it is her birthday, she is working to conquer her internal conflict of overcoming the humiliation on the day of her birthday. Due to Rachel’s lack of experience in life, she struggles with the embarrassment from her teacher on her birthday.
Because she is only eleven, Rachel does not know how to control or handle this situation and therefore, blames the event on her age. Rachel’s age is supported by Cisneros’s use of similes, repetition, and imagery, because they all reveal Rachel’s thoughts trough the eyes of an eleven year old. By the end of the day, Rachel turns into a dynamic character because she learns that obstacles will work out in the end and it is through her experiences that she will learn.