To develop a thesis statement that will help you write an effective paper, choose a theme that engages you and that occupies an important role in the work. The thesis tells your reader what your interpretation will be; it is not a summary of the work. Your thesis need not be concerned with the primary theme of the story, but it should treat an idea or motif that occurs repeatedly. In addition, an effective thesis will be anchored in examples from within the work.
On one level, the story “Eleven” is about being eleven years old, but additionally, it is about the process of maturing, of becoming any age or older in general. This universal experience is also highly personal. Cisneros grounds her story in specific details about Rachel’s birthday. One strategy might be to highlight one portion of the story that you think crystallizes the author’s intention. The story of the sweater has a wealth of detail, but the way you would use it depends on what you see as important.
Here is an example of a thesis and the thinking that surrounds developing a thesis: Rachel’s emotional attitude toward her teacher’s actions are tied closely to her physical reaction to the sweater itself. A related thesis could state: “Cisneros presents age as the changing relationship between physical and emotional states.” Your evidence could include the way Rachel feels three or ten (but not yet eleven), anticipates feeling 102, and expresses the feeling through a physical description.
A different thesis you could develop from the sweater story would instead focus on Rachel’s interactions with her teacher: “Rachel gains maturity and insight into power relations from the act of rejecting the sweater while seeming to accept it.”
Keep these two factors in mind: Be sure to take a stand! Your thesis must be yours—the position you promote may initially elicit your reader’s support or rejection and should be immediately identifiable. Back up your position! Always support your statement with information that the reader can find within the text.
What type of thesis statement you create depends on what aspect of Cisneros's short story you want to focus on. If you want to zero in on the theme of family, for example, you might make a claim like this:
The absence of details about Rachel's home itself suggests that it's the people who populate her house or apartment (or wherever she lives) that make it a home, not four walls and a roof.
Or, you could also touch on the story's symbolism as conveyed by the red sweater incident with a thesis like this:
In "Eleven," the color red has a negative connotation; usually, red denotes boldness and passion, but for Rachel, it represents anguish and embarrassment.
Or, you might address some aspect of the fact that "Eleven" is a coming-of-age story:
Rachel's tears over a smelly red sweater may seem childish, but her thoughts about Mrs. Price's abuse of power reveal a steep level of maturity—especially for an eleven-year-old.