While learning anything, never be afraid of committing mistakes. Commit as many mistakes as you like since every unsuccessful attempt teaches you a new lesson and eventually leads you to a great triumph.#AKWords Only Daughter (Narration) - By Sandra Cisneros

Header Ads Widget



Only Daughter (Narration) - By Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros | Image Source: The Famous People

Sandra Cisneros, born in a working-class family in 1954, was an only daughter of a Mexican-American mother and a Mexican father. Most of her childhood was spent moving between Chicago and Mexico City. She was a lonely bookish child who began writing privately at a young age. She began to feel her voice confident and bold when she was a creative writing student at Loyola University.

In her essay "Only Daughter", which was first published by Glamour magazine in 1990, Cisneros describes how difficult it can be for a daughter to grow up in a family where sons are valued over daughters like a Mexican-American family of six sons where I was growing up as the only daughter. She further supports herself by mentioning some proverbs that clearly highlight the importance of the presence of sons in the family: "A house full of daughters is like a cellar full of sour beer" (Dutch); "Daughters pay nae [no] debts" (Scottish); "A stupid son is better than a crafty daughter" (Chinese); and "A virtuous son is the sun of his family" (Sanskrit). The reason behind preferences for male children was limited employment opportunities for women and that meant sones were more able to provide financial support to their ageing parents. Later with the boom of industrialization, preferences for male children have considerably diminished according to contemporary research. However, this kind of inclination for sons still prevails in many cultures in Asia and the Middle East.

Being an only daughter, Cisneros got an opportunity to get her daydream fulfilled because even her six brothers did not have any interest in her. This forced her to spend time alone and that circumstance let her find it good for a would-be writer — it allowed her time to think and think, to imagine, to read and prepare herself.

For her father, being only a daughter does mean nothing more than ending up her life being a wife of someone. Once when she was in the fifth grade, she shared her dream of joining the college with her father and he replied "Que bueno, mi'ja (that's good)." The reason behind his seemingly positive remark was that he thought college was a good place for girls to find their husbands. Her father felt disappointed when she did not have her husband even after spending altogether six years in college and graduate school. He means he just wasted all that education.

Cisneros thinks she is lucky enough that her father believed that daughters were meant for husbands. It means nothing matters whether she is to find her career in English or else. This allowed her to put words in poems and stories in English. Although her father did not care, she wanted him to interrupt, despite the fact that he could understand little English, so that she could let him know her writing as "My only daughter, the writer" which he was supposed to feel proud of.

As they were frequently moving between Chicago and Mexico City, each time her father would seek out the parish priest to get a tuition break and complain or boast: "I have seven sons." Actually, he meant siete hijos, seven children, but he translated it as "sons". "I have seven sons." He often said, "I have seven sons". This sounds as if he deserved a medal from the state. This would of course make Cisneros heartbroken and erased from her family as she writes "I'd tug my father's sleeve and whisper: "Not seven sons. Six! and one daughter." One can imagine how painful it would have been for her as she was not being recognized by her father and family just because she was only a daughter. She vividly remembers her father's words when her oldest brother graduated from medical school. "Use this," he said, tapping his head, "and not this," showing us his hands.

She wanted to please her father as an aspiring author although female education means, for her father, just finding a husband. Her ultimate goal was to get her father's approval for finding her career in writing and to show that a daughter can also do as better as sons do. After ten years of writing professionally, the time that she was looking for started to trickle in.  Her book was sold to a major New York publishing house. One of her stories had been translated into Spanish and published in an anthology of Chicano writing, and she wanted to show it to him. She found him quite engaged in reading her book, and she sat on the bed next to him. He was laughing at all the right places and reading those lines he liked out loud. When he finished reading, looked up and asked me," Where can we get more copies of this for the relatives?" This is the moment she was eagerly waiting for. She proved to herself before her father that he did not waste all that education by not getting a husband in college; instead, she became an author. After a lot of hardship, she made her father feel proud of her. Her dream was to show her father that even a poor Mexican woman can write quality literature.


1. What does Cisneros mean when she writes that being an only daughter in a family of six sons "explains everything" (1)?

As a matter of fact, there are many cultures where sons are so much more highly valued than daughters. Based on this, what can be said that the given statement says a lot about how the author's life was growing up and about her relationship with her family. One can gather from this note that she has been undervalued by her family because of her gender growing up, a conclusion that the author confirms to be true as the essay continues.

2. What distinction does Cisneros make in paragraphs 2 and 3 between being “the only daughter” and “only a daughter”?

"The only daughter" simply means that she was the one daughter among seven children. When the author restates this as "only a daughter," she is emphasizing her family's preference for male children, and how she was made to feel as if she was beneath them.

3. What advantages does Cisneros see in being “the only daughter”? In being “only a daughter”?

Because of male preference in her culture, she had a lot of time just for being an "only daughter" and that helped her make her daydream true and got an opportunity to study further. Similarly, being "only a daughter" gave Cisneros more freedom as she expressed her desire to join college to pursue further study, her father allowed her assuming that she would get a good husband and later she would financially settle with her husband after marriage. She cites this for the freedom she felt when pursuing a career in writing.

4. Why does her father think she has wasted her education? What is her reaction to his opinion?

When the author's father heard her express her wish to join college, he became very happy because he believes that the purpose of higher education for women is to make them more desirable for marriage but when he found that his daughter has not gotten married yet, he sees her degree was a waste. The author doesn't agree but is insecure about this; she wants to gain his approval and says that her persistence in her writing career is largely for him.

5. Why is her father’s reaction to her story the “most wonderful” (22) thing that happened to Cisneros that year?

The author has spent her entire life feeling dismissed and undervalued by her father. She talks earlier in the article about how much of her motivation for writing professionally is driven by the desire to finally gain his approval. Previously, her father has shown no interest in engaging in the author's work. When he finally reads it and openly appreciates it for what it is, the author finally gets what she has been yearning for since she was young.

Purpose and Audience

1. Although Cisneros uses many Spanish words in her essay, in most cases she defines or explains these words. What does this decision tell you about her purpose and her audience?

The use of Spanish words in the essay reflects the author’s cultural background along with its prevalence and importance to her life. However, explaining them in English shows that she wants to write for a wide audience; her purpose might be to raise a wider understanding of the experience of someone raised in a Mexican-American family to those who did not grow up in that context.

2. What is Cisneros’s thesis? What incidents and details support this thesis?

Cisneros’s thesis is that being raised as the only daughter in a family of six sons –  specifically a Mexican-American family – has presented unique challenges that have stayed with her into adulthood. She supports this thesis by citing times she was undervalued throughout her childhood and adolescence (her brothers shunning her because she was a girl, her father viewing her goals and desires through the lens of her becoming a wife). She talks about her pervasive desire to impress her father with her professional accomplishments, which is a struggle unique to her among her siblings.

3. Do you think Cisneros intends to convey a sympathetic or an unsympathetic impression of her father? Explain.

Even though the author stresses that her father's sexism caused her a great deal of pain throughout her life, she writes about him in a way that feels loving and attributes his bias to the traditional culture that her father grew up in. When she talks about the pain she felt when her father said that he had "seven sons", she says: "My papa. He didn't mean anything by that mistranslation, I'm sure." The author never talks about her father in a hateful way; she makes it clear that she wanted something different from him and clearly has been longing for his respect for many years. But the gentle language she uses when discussing him and her emphasis on his cultural heritage make her resentment feel like it is directed more at society at large than her father.

Style and Structure

1. Where does Cisneros interrupt a narrative passage to comment on or analyze events? What does this strategy accomplish?

The author interrupts the narrative to reflect quite often throughout the essay: after talking about her brothers shunning her as a child; after discussing her father's views on her college education; after describing her father's reaction to her early writing. She follows many of her paragraphs with a brief analysis. This strategy helps the reader to understand why these details are important. Her additional comments give the reader insight into how these moments impacted her emotionally and developmentally, and their long-term effects on her life.

2. Are the episodes in this essay presented in chronological order? Explain.

The essay does not follow chronological order; it skips around quite a bit. The author begins by referencing an anthology she published several years ago, then jumps back to her early childhood. She then discusses finishing graduate school, after which she jumps back to her childhood experiences. After this, she discusses her post-college experiences once more and moves on to very recent events when she speaks about her time with her father at Christmas.

3. What transitional expressions does Cisneros use to introduce new episodes?

Cisneros often uses time-related expressions, like "when" or "last year" to introduce new episodes of the story.

4. Cisneros quotes her father several times. What do we learn about him from his words?

From his quoted dialogue, it is clear that the father often speaks in Spanish; this helps emphasize his heritage and upbringing and aligns with the author's description of her father reading only material written in Spanish. Most of his dialogue is positive; he speaks about his children in a positive manner, though most of what he says seems quite terse, implying he is not overly talkative. His longest quoted lines are when he is speaking about the author's work at the end of the article. The contrast between the short sentences scattered throughout the rest of the article with these long lines at the end makes his interest in her work feel more profound.

5. Why does Cisneros devote so much space to describe her father in paragraphs 17-21? How does this portrait compare to the one she presents in paragraphs 9-11?

In paragraphs 17-21, the author's father has suffered a stroke and it seems that it has impacted his life greatly; he seems to be physically weaker and requires more rest in this stage of his life. He spends most of his time lying down. This contrasts with how he behaved before in paragraphs 9-11, where the author talked about how often her family moved around as a result of her father's whims, and how energetic he was. Despite this, he does not seem unhappy when he is described near the end of the essay; he just seems more mellowed out. He is still enjoying the same types of comforts that he enjoyed in the past.

Vocabulary Projects

1. Define each of the following words as it is used in this selection.

embroidering (5) is used here rhetorically, meaning "to embellish" with words and language.

stubbed (13) is used here to mean "roughened" and thick with calluses.

Post a Comment