The narrator in “Eleven” possesses a blend of eleven-year-old immaturity and understanding beyond her years that help define the story through the use of figurative language. She doesn’t have very good control of her emotions. To break down crying because of a sweater is certainly a childish thing to do. But despite this common immaturity at her age, she still makes points that speak to adults. Adults can still remember being eleven and feeling like the narrator does.
But they may be surprised to hear a child tell them that it’s okay to feel eleven again. In the story, she seems to have trouble standing up and telling the truth about the sweater, but that is not the case. The problem may simply be the mortification of the experience that she feels inside. “Only today I wish I didn’t have eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box.”
The simile of her years inside her like pennies in a Band-Aid box seems very childlike, but the narrator is also able to show ideas that illustrate her wisdom. “When you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one.” Older people know what it’s like to feel all those ages because they have been through them. In this case, the narrator wishes that it wasn’t so.
In the end, the unique characteristics of an eleven- year old have allowed us to make important discoveries about growing up. The narrator says that “when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t.” She understands that people sometimes display the characteristics of the ages they have passed and that it is okay. Lastly, the experiences you go through will soon add up and make you wiser without even realizing it.