Short Story Review: “Only Daughter” by Sandra Cisneros

“Only Daughter” is an ethnic short story about a young girl who is the only daughter in a family of 6 sons. The story begins with her childhood and how the daughter was unappreciated by her brothers who never play with her and her father who refers to her as one of his “siete ninos” or seven sons, even when he is speaking English he never bothers to correct the mistranslation. The daughter expresses her desire to go to college and the dad agrees because he hopes she will meet a man in college. She completes undergrad and grad school, still unmarried. Her father feels she has wasted her education. The narrator discusses how she was always writing for her father and people like him the “public majority disinterested in reading.” In the end, after she has been a professional writer for 10 years and her father has grown much more sickly, he reads one of her works that has been translated to Spanish (he could not read English) and enjoys it. In this way, he expresses that he is proud of her and the conflict between them is resolved.

This is a great story, but I would love to know the father’s point of view. He was trying to support nine people in foreign land and did not even read English. Anyone who has ever felt disconnected from their father would certainly enjoy this story.

Sandra Cisneros is also the author of House On Mango Street, which I am currently reading.

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29 thoughts on “Short Story Review: “Only Daughter” by Sandra Cisneros

  1. azka says:

    i like your really helped me in getting through the basic theme of Only daughter.You gave differnet words to the story of keep doing it….thanks!

  2. Riley says:

    I can’t wait for your review on The House on Mango Street. I had to read it years ago in my Women’s Lit class. I haven’t read anything else by her since, but I want to check this story out.

    • Debra says:

      Thank so much for stopping by! I will be adding lots of reviews very soon, so be sure to check back!

  3. Mabel Nash-Greenberg says:

    Mabel Nash-Greenberg

    In her short memoir, “Only Daughter,” Sandra Cisneros portrays herself as the progressive, intelligent female in a male-dominated family and society. She considers herself deserving of the attention of her male superiors despite the widespread sexism that reigns in her community. However, despite her said belief in the importance of a female’s education, Cisneros is no empowered female, no feminist, no independent woman. In fact she is quite the opposite, enforcing the oppressive powers that restrain her by buckling under their weight.
    Despite what appears to be movements toward an intelligent independence, her father may be right to say that Cisneros’ education was wasted. Nowhere in the memoir does the reader see Cisneros moving from the forces that oppress her as a woman. Instead, Cisneros oppresses herself, made apparent by her clear desperation for the approval of her father—the patriarch.
    Cisneros considers herself deserving of her father’s respect but she does not earn it. Instead, Cisneros passively sails through the life she is dealt. In truth, Cisneros never does anything for herself except for choose to study English. Even her decision to major in English seems driven by petty antagonism, a half-hearted rebellion against her non-English speaking father. Cisneros gently mocks herself, This allowed me the liberty to putter about, embroidering my little poems and stories without my father interrupting with so much as a “What’s that you’re writing?.”
    And it only gets worse. Cisneros goes on to confess that “everything [she] has ever written has been to…win [her father’s] approval.” As the only daughter of her family, Cisneros is the minority, and she represents all females of the world. The men in her family already think it beneath them to associate with her. Her father does not bother to challenge the semantics of the Spanish language by distinguishing that he actually has only seis hijos and una hija rather than simply siete hijos. The world and the future of equality of the sexes is resting on Cisneros’ shoulders with each interaction in which she feels unappreciated because she is female, disregarded or rejected. Cisneros could have spoken up when her father wishfully calls her one of his sons. She could have actively found a new, more caring audience to write for and devote herself to. Yet she does nothing to challenge her position, nothing to deserve their respect. She embodies the passive female archetype she claims to be rebelling against, and for that, Cisneros is a failure.

  4. bOObOO305 says:

    I really like your work, it really helped me getting through the basic theme of the story and with my H.W.
    I liked your coment about the father’s point of view, it’s true,he had this really big responsability and this really big family that couldn’t let him understand many things about his sons and doughter point of views becouse he had to support them in what’s food, home & future. So he needed his sons working and her doughter merried. 🙂 THANKS

  5. Muneer vatakara says:

    Your work is very helpful to understand the real theme of it. I hav got most of all visual images about ‘the only daughter’by reading ur works. I would like to get more information about sandra’s father’s job.

  6. Consuelitomx says:

    Hi Debra! I’ve been searching the web to find new ideas for my Literature course. Now I think that it would be great if my students could read “Only Daughter”, then read your review and post a comment here. I liked your POV and the warm response of your followers, maybe your blog could help me convince them of the pleasures of reading and writing. Keep on the good work!

    • Debra says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by! I’m glad that I could help. Please check back. Now that I’m done taking the bar exam, I’ll be updating much more frequently.

  7. Richard says:

    I am wondering from what cultural POV you are basing your understanding upon. This is a very different culture than typical American family situations. While she did make herself a puppet to her father, I’m sure the example was set by her mother. Doubtful of the mother doing anything to inspire independance in her daughter, like her mother before her. To ask Cisneros to stray away from her father’s imprisonment of her independance would like asking a fish to stop swimming. The type of f independance you are asking for requires a beginning with generations of “straying” so that the rebellion seems more tollerable and culturally acceptable. Few have the courage to break away without there being some stronger motivational reasoning.

  8. Juan montes says:

    So I have to write a essay in class about this story and I’m struggling with the purpose of the author, I put down the authors purpose was for her father to be proud of , his only daughter ? Can someone help me out? I’d really appreciate it

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