Sandra Cisneros short story “Eleven” is a unique story filled with distinctive thoughts and an interesting overall plot. Filled with exhilaration and humor, it depicts an eleven-year-old girl’s eleventh birthday. Yet, underneath the age of eleven, this girl believes she is still ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and even one! According to her, all your younger emotions are still in you as you grow older. For instance, sometimes you might cry and act as though you are three. But no matter what she thinks, she is turning eleven on the day described in the story.
I advise students to read plenty of examples of strong essays in advance of beginning any brainstorming or writing. There are a number of books on the market and websites to help. Then I like to choose a couple of those sample essays and have the student identify three things or traits that were revealed about the writer/applicant. For example, family is important as revealed by the catchy beginning that showed the writer/applicant having a deep discussion with an older sibling. Or the writer is profoundly interested in studying French and is willing to take on challenges outside her comfort zone as revealed by the reference to studying abroad in a full-immersion exchange program. Or the writer values community as revealed by the eloquent description of her role within the corps d’ ballet, and how she provides support to and draws on the strength of her fellow dancers. Then I ask, “what do you want to reveal about yourself that’s important to you?”
The black community in Maycomb is quite idealized, especially in the scenes at the black church and in the “colored balcony” during the trial. Lee’s portrayal of the black community isn’t unrealistic or unbelievable; it is important to point out, however, that she emphasizes all of the good qualities of the community without ever pointing out any of the bad ones. The black community is shown to be loving, affectionate, welcoming, pious, honest, hardworking, close-knit, and forthright. Calpurnia and Tom, members of this community, possess remarkable dignity and moral courage. But the idealization of the black community serves an important purpose in the novel, heightening the contrast between victims and victimizers. The town’s black citizens are the novel’s victims, oppressed by white prejudice and forced to live in an environment where the mere word of a man like Bob Ewell can doom them to life in prison, or even execution, with no other evidence. By presenting the blacks of Maycomb as virtuous victims—good people made to suffer—Lee makes her moral condemnation of prejudice direct, emphatic, and explicit.