Sandra Cisneros

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What techniques does Sandra Cisneros use in "Mericans"? How does her background impact her style of writing in "Mericans"?

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Two of the most noticeable techniques Sandra Cisneros uses in “Mericans” are her mixing of languages and her childish tone. The short story is written from the point of view of a child, which impacts the voice of the narration. The narrator comments on things in a very blatant way: upon entering the church she wonders, “Why do churches smell like the inside of an ear?” This is something an adult narrator might feel is inappropriate to mention about a sacred space, but Cisneros’s young narrator is unabashed about her dislike of the church and her “awful grandmother.” She counts the grandmother’s nose hairs as the grandmother prays, adding a childish goofiness to a serious situation.

The tone of the piece is also impacted by the fact that Cisneros’s narrator is bilingual, which allows her to switch between English and Spanish throughout the piece. The very first sentence is a smooth blending of languages: “dropping pesos in la ofrenda box before the altar.” This technique reveals that the narrator is accustomed to moving between these two languages and finds herself thinking in both. She does not seem to have to try hard to transition from language to language; in fact, the transitioning seems to be ingrained in her conceptualization of language.

This is no surprise; Cisneros herself is bilingual, and much of her writing style is influenced by her juggling of languages. Growing up, Cisneros moved often between Chicago and Mexico City, which meant she also lived between the languages and cultures of both places. She has said that her access to both languages gives her a wider spectrum of words to utilize in her writing, and it is evident that her writing style in “Mericans” is an example of that. This piece also betrays a sense of the young narrator’s loneliness and displacement, which Cisneros is familiar with from childhood. Cisneros grew up with six brothers; as the only girl in the household—a girl who moved around from country to country often, at that—Cisneros often felt as though she did not belong. Perhaps this is why the young female narrator in “Mericans” cannot find a place of belonging, neither with her two brothers nor with her grandmother inside the church.

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