How would you describe the character of the narrator in Daly's short story "Sixteen"?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maureen Daly uses a first person narrator in her short story “Sixteen.” As the story begins, the narrator, who is the protagonist, goes to great lengths to let the reader know that she is worldly in a teenaged sort of way. She knows what the latest styles are, she reads the current editorials, and listens to the radio. She wants you to know that she is not just a silly girl. When she ventures out to the skating rink on a cold winter night, she describes the beauty of the stars, the moon, the crunchy snow, and the sounds at the rink. It seems that she is an intuitive, detailed oriented, young woman in how she presents herself and cares for her things. She places her shoes out of the way in the skate shack to keep them safe. She is a rational thinker.

However, as soon as the young male skater takes her hand, all rationality ceases. She becomes a giddy young girl who purely enjoys skating and walking home with this young man. When they reach home, he says he will call her, which she firmly believes. She waits expectantly for days before coming to the realization that he will never call. This takes you back to the beginning of the story when she says, “Now don’t get me wrong. I mean, I want you to understand from the beginning that I’m not so really dumb.”

poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The protagonist in Maureen Daly's short story "Sixteen" is best described, quite simply, as an average sixteen-year-old girl. This first person narrator proclaims herself "not really so dumb"--a girl who knows "what a girl should do and what she shouldn't." Like many other teenage girls (or perhaps like the stereotyped teenage girl), she has a propensity for romanticizing the people and places around her, despite her insistence that she is grounded and worldly.

She is attentive to detail and poetic in her descriptions of what occurs; although she seems to have a good head on her shoulders, there is evidence--such as her decision to go skating when her homework isn't finished--that she is perhaps not the most reliable individual. It is that side of her that emerges when she meets the boy who goes skating with her. No longer is she concerned about keeping up dignified appearances; rather, she is concerned with the status of the boy as a "big shot" and the "best dancer in town." Her experience with him and her longing for him to call when he clearly won't is indicative of her youthful naïveté and the true softness of her character behind the tough exterior she has constructed. 

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