Maureen Daly Questions and Answers

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What do you think is the main message the author is trying to communicate in the story "Sixteen"? How does the author's word choice or use of language affect this theme?

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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The main message of the story is that infatuation doesn't always equal true love. We can all sympathize with the girl in the story who is flattered by the young man's attention. He is a consummate flirt; his first gesture is to encircle his arms warmly and protectively around her waist when he asks her if she minds him skating with her. He takes command of each situation, is closely attentive to her, and talks to her in an intimate manner. The girl falls hard for him, but this is only a game for someone who is known as a 'big shot' in school and the 'best dancer in town.'

She is so infatuated that she believes him when he says he is going to call. However, she is soon disappointed and learns the truth that every teenager eventually acquires: a master flirt often knows how to manipulate the emotions of others to his advantage, but it never leads to a promising relationship for the one who hopes.

As for word choice, the author cleverly uses some effective literary devices to describe the disappointment and pain of a young heart. No where is this more apparent than in the last paragraph.

Tonight is Tuesday. Tonight is Tuesday and my homework is done and I darned some stocking that really didn't need it, and I worked a cross-word puzzle and I listened to the radio and now I'm just sitting. I'm just sitting because I can't think of anything else to do.

The use of anaphora (as in the words 'tonight' and 'I') and anadiplosis (as in the phrase 'I'm just sitting') highlights a lot of repetition on the girl's part;  her anxiety is painfully apparent. She is basically just engaging in repetitive, mindless tasks to pass the time in case the young man does call. In the end, she realizes that

For all of a sudden, I know, I know what the stars knew all the time - he will never, never call - never.

The repetition of the word 'never' ( epimone) and 'know' highlights the young girl's mental and emotional anguish. Each 'never' is like a throbbing wound; the young man has let her down terribly, and it hurts.

Hope this helps!

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