Essay on Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven”

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Essay on Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven”
An Interpretation of Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven”
Have you ever been embarrassed because you couldn’t find the right words to say? In “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros, Rachel learns that even though she is eleven, she isn’t yet “smart eleven.” The plot, setting, and main character in the story together illustrate the idea that growing wiser isn’t as easy as growing older.

The plot also develops the story’s message. Mrs. Price, Rachel’s teacher, finds an ugly red sweater and asks whose it is. A classmate says it belongs to Rachel, and Mrs. Price agrees. The teacher puts the sweater on Rachel’s desk even though Rachel inwardly objects. When Rachel pushes the sweater to the “tippy-tip corner” of her desk, Mrs. Price orders her to put on the sweater. Instead of insisting that the sweater isn’t hers, Rachel wears it and begins to cry. As a result, we learn that Rachel is older but still not wise enough to handle an embarrassing situation.

To support the message about growing up, Cisneros sets the story in Rachel’s classroom on her eleventh birthday. The birthday represents growing older, and Rachel, like many children her age, expects her birthday to be fun and easy. She imagines gifts, cake, and singing with her family. The classroom, however, represents growing wiser. Rachel’s experience in the classroom is not so easy. She is embarrassed by her teacher in front of her classmates.

Rachel’s thoughts and actions also show that growing older is easier than growing wiser. When Rachel cries in front of her classmates, she is ashamed. She says, “I’m eleven and it’s my birthday today and I’m crying like I’m three in front of everybody.” By the end of the day, Rachel knows that she is older but not wiser. She says, “[W]hen you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t…You feel like you’re still ten.” Her embarrassment over the red sweater makes her realize that she is eleven but not yet “smart eleven.”

“Eleven” is a story about the struggle of growing up, but buried beneath Rachel’s embarrassment is a clear message. Growing older and becoming wiser don’t always go hand in hand.
From Holt, Rinehart and Winston Elements of Literature website

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