Literary Techniques Used in “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros

Arts and Literature

Sandra Cisneros is a renowned American author known for her poignant portrayals of the Latino experience. In her short story “Eleven,” Cisneros masterfully employs various literary techniques to convey the complex emotions and inner turmoil of the protagonist, Rachel. This article explores the different literary techniques used in “Eleven” and their impact on the reader’s understanding and interpretation of the story.

1. Symbolism

In “Eleven,” symbolism plays a significant role in enhancing the story’s themes and underlying meanings. The sweater Rachel is forced to wear symbolizes the weight of others’ expectations and the pressure to conform. As she puts on the sweater, she feels as if she is wearing the persona of someone else, which highlights the struggle to maintain her true identity.

1.1 The Red Sweater

The red sweater, specifically, symbolizes Rachel’s vulnerability and the embarrassment she feels when it is mistakenly attributed to her. This symbolizes the burden of mistakes and misunderstandings that people carry throughout their lives, even if they are not responsible for them.

2. Imagery

Cisneros skillfully employs vivid imagery to evoke strong emotions and create a vivid mental picture for the reader. Through descriptive language, she allows the reader to experience the events alongside the protagonist, making the story more relatable and engaging.

2.1 The Smell of the Sweater

One notable instance of imagery in “Eleven” is the description of the smell of the sweater. Cisneros writes, “like cottage cheese inside a vinegar jar.” This vivid imagery not only appeals to the reader’s sense of smell but also conveys Rachel’s disgust and discomfort, further emphasizing her feelings of embarrassment and shame.

3. Point of View

The story is narrated in the first-person point of view, allowing the reader to experience Rachel’s thoughts and emotions directly. This narrative technique creates a sense of intimacy and empathy, as the reader gains insight into Rachel’s inner turmoil and the struggles of adolescence.

3.1 Rachel’s Stream of Consciousness

Cisneros uses Rachel’s stream of consciousness to convey the confusion and frustration she feels. The constant shifting of thoughts and tangents mirrors the scattered nature of Rachel’s emotions, providing a deeper understanding of her character.

4. Repetition

Repetition is a powerful literary technique used by Cisneros to emphasize certain ideas or feelings. In “Eleven,” the repetition of the phrase “I’m eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one” emphasizes Rachel’s desire to be recognized as herself and not be defined by others’ perceptions of her age.

4.1 The Repetition of Ages

This repetition not only emphasizes Rachel’s confusion and frustration but also serves as a reminder of how societal expectations can overshadow an individual’s true identity. Through this repetition, Cisneros highlights the universal struggle of staying true to oneself in the face of external pressure.

5. Tone

The tone of “Eleven” plays a crucial role in conveying the protagonist’s emotions and the overall atmosphere of the story. Cisneros carefully selects words and phrases to create a specific tone that resonates with the reader.

5.1 Emotional Tone

The emotional tone of the story fluctuates between embarrassment, confusion, anger, and resignation. This shifting tone mirrors Rachel’s emotional journey, allowing the reader to empathize with her experiences and feel a deeper connection to the narrative.

6. Foreshadowing

Cisneros skillfully uses foreshadowing to hint at future events and build suspense throughout the story. By subtly alluding to what is to come, she engages the reader and generates anticipation for the unfolding narrative.

6.1 The Reference to Rachel’s Birthday

Early in the story, Rachel mentions that it is her birthday. This seemingly innocent comment foreshadows the discomfort and emotional turmoil she will face later when her age is questioned, adding depth to the story and creating a sense of foreboding.

7. Irony

Irony is employed by Cisneros to add layers of depth and complexity to the story. Through the use of irony, she highlights the contrast between what is expected and what actually happens, creating a sense of tension and irony that resonates with the reader.

7.1 Rachel’s Expectations vs. Reality

Rachel’s expectations of how she should feel on her birthday versus the overwhelming emotions she actually experiences is an example of situational irony. This discrepancy between expectation and reality underscores the challenges of growing up and the often-unpredictable nature of life.

8. Allusion

Cisneros subtly incorporates allusions to other literary works, enriching the reader’s experience and adding depth to the story. These allusions can provide additional layers of meaning or evoke specific emotions associated with the referenced works.

8.1 Allusion to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”

Cisneros alludes to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” when Rachel mentions that her teacher has a “smirk” that reminds her of the villainous character, Claudius. This allusion adds complexity to the story by connecting Rachel’s experiences to a broader literary context, inviting readers to draw further parallels and interpretations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ 1: What is the main theme of “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros?

The main theme of “Eleven” is the struggle to maintain one’s true identity in the face of societal expectations and pressures. Through the experiences of the protagonist, Rachel, the story explores the complexities of adolescence and the challenges of staying true to oneself.

FAQ 2: Why does Rachel feel embarrassed about the red sweater?

Rachel feels embarrassed about the red sweater because it is mistakenly attributed to her when it belongs to another student. This embarrassment symbolizes the burden of mistakes and misunderstandings that individuals often carry throughout their lives.

FAQ 3: How does Sandra Cisneros use symbolism in “Eleven”?

Sandra Cisneros uses symbolism in “Eleven” to enhance the story’s themes and underlying meanings. The red sweater symbolizes Rachel’s vulnerability and the pressure to conform, while the act of putting it on represents the struggle to maintain one’s true identity.

FAQ 4: What is the significance of Rachel’s stream of consciousness in the story?

Rachel’s stream of consciousness in “Eleven” reflects her confusion and frustration. It allows the reader to delve into her scattered thoughts and gain a deeper understanding of her character and the challenges she faces.

FAQ 5: How does the use of imagery contribute to the reader’s experience of “Eleven”?

The use of imagery in “Eleven” creates vivid mental pictures and appeals to the reader’s senses, evoking strong emotions and enhancing the story’s impact. Descriptions such as the smell of the sweater add depth and relatability to the narrative.

FAQ 6: What is the significance of the repetition of ages in the story?

The repetition of ages in “Eleven” emphasizes Rachel’s desire to be recognized as herself and not be defined solely by her age. It highlights the universal struggle of maintaining one’s true identity in the face of societal expectations.

Conclusion

In Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven,” various literary techniques are employed to convey the complexities of adolescence and the struggle to maintain one’s true identity. Through symbolism, imagery, point of view, repetition, tone, foreshadowing, irony, and allusion, Cisneros immerses the reader in the emotional journey of the protagonist, Rachel. These literary techniques enhance the reader’s understanding and interpretation of the story, making “Eleven” a powerful and thought-provoking piece of literature.


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