How does Maureen Daly's word choice/use of language affect the theme in her short story "Sixteen"?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Central themes in Maureen Daly's short story "Sixteen" concern a teenager's unrequited love or a teenager's disappointments in love. Daly craftily uses her diction, meaning word choices, to portray the youthfulness and hopeless romanticism of the nameless protagonist.

Diction to portray the protagonist as a young, naive teenager can be found in the very first paragraph. One example can be seen in the fact that opening with the sentence, "I want you to understand from the beginning that I'm not really so dumb," actually produces the exact opposite effect. From that moment, the reader is on pins and needles just waiting for the protagonist to do something that seems rather dumb. Her youthful naivete is further portrayed in such statements as, "I read the Broadway columns" and further statements about reading Hollywood gossip--the protagonist is clearly taken in by the romanticism of Hollywood.

Other diction choices that portray the protagonist as a naive, hopeless romantic concern the fact that she describes the night as "breathlessly quiet" and the night sky being filled with a "million flirting eyes." The irony the protagonist points out that it is snowing a little though she perceives the night to be clear further helps capture her naivete. Hence, the reader is not very surprised by the time the protagonist explains she never saw or heard from the boy again.


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