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The thirty eighth year

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Write a 2 page essay on The thirty eighth year by Lucille Clifton.“The Thirty-Eighth Year” begins with the statement of the speaker that at the thirty eighth year of her life she is an ordinary woman “plain as bread” and “round as cake”. The two images drawn from day-to-day life successfully bring out the idea she wants to drive home. Plain, without any frills, just ordinary, that’s her life. It is a life without any significant achievement. It is an existence at the base, common level. Its association with cake, a delicacy, is only in the shape – the roundness. She uses common, simple words very economically but she uses them quite subtly. Her sense of humor is quite obvious. The expression “an ordinary woman” is used twice in the beginning of the poem itself and twice again in it, including the last line. Like her other poems, this brief note of lament by Clifton is meant primarily to be read aloud, to be sung. Despite the everyday nature of its language, its rhythmic musical quality is strikingly obvious. The speaker expresses her reasons for dejection: she had expected herself to be smaller in form and more beautiful. Her African-American heritage is a persistent theme in Clifton’s poems. Here the speaker gives vent to her feeling of frustration at not being wiser in African ways. She wanted to be more confident. She wanted a lot more from life. The thought that she is about to be forty contributes to yet another feeling of misery for her. She is reminded of the fact that her mother dies at forty four. The memory of her mother who had a “sad countenance” perturbs her.


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