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. In “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros, Rachel is only eleven years old, yet she would rather be one hundred and two. She feels that the old age will give her the respect and wisdom to be able to stand up for herself. Through the use of point of view and diction, Cisneros develops Rachel s character and shows that despite her youth, Rachel is capable of feeling and expressing ideas and emotions universal to all ages.
Rachel is a round character who has learned a lot about growing up from the experience she has had on her eleventh birthday. She retells her story in the first-person point of view, letting the reader witness firsthand Rachel s predicament. By having Rachel recount her birthday rather than a narrator tell the story in the third-person point of view, the reader gets to witness everything Rachel feels during the course of her day. We are able to see Rachel s thoughts as she ponders why when you turn eleven, you do not feel eleven, but rather all the previous years together like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box. The embarrassment Rachel feels is made apparent through the use of point of view, when her teacher makes her take the lost sweater in front of the whole class. Even if the ugly sweater with red plastic buttons and a stretched out collar and sleeves were hers, she would not admit it since it was maybe a thousand years old, Rachel informs the reader. The teacher puts the sweater on Rachel s desk, insisting that it belongs to Rachel; despite Rachel s objections, the teacher makes her put the sweater on. Rachel tells the reader then that she wishes she were one hundred and two. If she were that age rather than eleven, then she would have known exactly what to say and would not have ended up crying in front of the class. If she were older, Mrs. Price would listen to her denials and not ignore her. She would have the courage to say not mine, not mine boldly out loud instead of just getting sick inside. With any other point of view, the effect on the viewer would not be the same. We would just see the objective retelling of the story and not know how the situation is viewed by Rachel.
Furthermore, we learn about Rachel s character through the diction used by the author. The choice of words nicely compliments an eleven-year old’s thought pattern. The neutral, simple sentences and concrete words let us visualize Rachel s thoughts. Rachel s thought precession first introduces us to her dilemma by protesting how we are never told that when we turn eleven, we do not actually feel eleven, and may not until close to our twelfth birthday. We sympathize with her and want to learn more about what happened to her to make her feel this way about her age. Since the story is told as if an eleven-year-old is speaking, the plight is that much worse because the wound is fresh. In addition, Rachel is telling the story with all the feeling she had when it occurred. The words she chooses are very descriptive and aid in the viewing of the scene. The reader automatically sympathizes with Rachel as she tells us how she was forced to put on the ugly sweater in front of the whole class. We can feel her agony and visualize how she finally reacts when she starts crying, My face all hot and spit coming out of my mouth because I can t stop the little animal noises from coming out just like she was three again. Her birthday was ruined and she wanted to be as far away from eleven as possible.
A birthday is a special time, particularly during youth. That day should be perfect but for Rachel, unfortunately, her birthday was devastated by this school experience. Everyone has an embarrassing moment from childhood that they want to forget about being yelled at for something that was not your fault or having a classmate you cannot stand. Who has not had a time when they were not listened to because they were too young? However, Rachel s moment has just occurred and as can be expected the hurt is fresh. The story ends as it begins with Rachel wishing to be older so that this memory can be far, far away and not seem as important as it does right now, on her eleventh birthday.