My Life

Fear and Loathing in Lyn Hejinian's 13th Entry

The number thirteen carries with it symbolic connotations unique to no other digits. Widely recognized as unlucky, to the point of constructing whole buildings that omit the number altogether, it stands as a superstitious unit of fear. Thirteen likewise represents the coming of age, as seen in the Jewish Bar Mitzvah and within the syntax of the word itself, transcending childhood to become “teen” (eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, etc.). Such idiosyncrasies of the number thirteen play themselves out in Lyn Hejinian’s thirteenth section outlining the thirteenth year of her life in the poetic autobiography My Life. In it, Hejinian explores metonymic associations regarding the simplicity of childhood, expressly through images of animals and children at play, and effectively contrasts such connections to the suddenly self-conscious fear and confusion of adolescence, illustrating her own unique account of pubescent awkwardness.

Hejinian’s utilizations of animals in this excerpt all serve some metonymic role that effectually illuminates the disparity between childhood and adolescence. Seemingly youthful, innocent symbols of childhood become strongly juxtaposed with more adult themes, almost as if narrated from the perspective of an...

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