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The Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers



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    This poem portrays a main character, Aunt Jennifer, as a humble docile woman; smothered by her marriage and the norms she feels she must meet to please society. Adrienne Rich cleverly names the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” because of the importance of the role the tigers play in her life. With a husband who dominates her in all respects, she must find her own freedom in her life by knitting in her free time. Aunt Jennifer, a woman on the backside of her life, is slaved to her husband’s controlling ways and rules.

    To stay sane, aunt Jennifer must find her own way to deal with her unhappy submissive life, by sewing extravagant and observable tigers. She does this to portray what she wishes her life could be, which is the ability to live without fear and with freedom. In the first stanza the speaker opens the poem up with imagery that represent tigers literally prancing with freedom, the one thing Aunt Jennifer wishes she could have. “ Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen/ Bright topaz denizens of a world of green (1-2) This image immediately brings the thought of a scene of happiness and independence.

    A bright topaz denizen of a world of green represents the color of nature, while it is associated with joy, and liveliness. Aunt Jennifer is obviously in pursuit for liberty and vivacity. She cannot experience these wonderful things at home so she escapes to her sewing. Conversely, the tigers are everything Aunt Jennifer wishes she could be. These tigers do not allow anything or anyone to hinder their assurance in the world, as they respectively do what they please. They do not fear the men beneath the tree/ they pace in sleek chivalric certainty”(3-4) the tigers to Aunt Jennifer are similar to a kid looking up to a superhero who represents everything he wishes he could be. In the second stanza of the poem, Aunt Jennifer makes it very apparent that she is very paranoid and feels the need to escape her marriage “Aunt Jennifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool”(5) This implies that she is sewing as fast as her fingers will allow. But why would Aunt Jennifer feel rushed during her free time?

    Perhaps Jennifer is afraid that her aggressive and demanding husband will catch her? Perhaps she does not know if she will ever finish the quilt so rushing is the only answer. “The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band/ sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s Hand (7-8). With it being very unlikely that her ring is so heavy for her hand to move, the speaker uses irony as a way for her to portray that the marriage is the complete opposite of what she hoped for. Aunt Jennifer’s marriage may possibly be the biggest mistake of her life, and she wishes to escape, which she does while sewing.

    The concluding stanza of this poem encloses imagery that links the reader back to the first two stanzas of the poem that proves Aunt Jennifer has not lived the life she wished for, but optimistically will live with pleasure through the tigers once she passes away. The first line observably shows that Aunt Jennifer is frightened by her husband “ Her terrified hands will lie/ Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by“ (9-10) This line links back to the second stanza when Aunt Jennifer was hastening as fast as she could with the lumber of her Husband’s wedding band.

    Perhaps her hands are so terrified because her controlling husband emotionally and physically abuses her? The last two lines of the stanza and poem link back to the first line of the first stanza. The tigers that she made are still in the panel, and they will continue to prance courageously with no worries “ prancing, proud and unafraid”(12). The tigers she frightfully created in her problem filled life will go on to be free forever. Although Aunt Jennifer lives her life miserably through fear and depression, she found a way to create some sort of happiness in her life that will live on after she has perished.

    The arrangement of the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” by Adrienne Rich is constructed by the braveness of a woman who has the ability to cope with the negativity her spouse distributes by creating beautiful quilts that portray something she wishes she could experience. In just three four-line stanzas with traditional structured lyrics, and end rimes at the end of each stanza, Rich is able to grasp the reader’s attention to prove that no matter how unhappy a person is, they may find a simple way to fabricate some sort of hopefulness to stay positive around a negative lifestyle.

    Aunt Jennifer successfully found a way to achieve joyfulness when there was nothing else to look forward to. Perhaps many people should read this poem and determine something that they can create, that will generate an imaginative way to stay around once they expire. Aunt Jennifer sure did.

    Works Cited

    “Quoting Poetry within a Paper Using MLA Documentation. ” Quoting Poetry within a Paper Using MLA Documentation. N. p. , n. d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. Kennedy, X. J. , and Dana Gioia. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. ” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. 678. Print.

    The Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. (2017, Jan 29). Retrieved from

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