Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers
By- Adrienne Rich
Short and Simple Summary of the lesson in English– Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers / Summary in simple Words/ Critical appreciation of the lesson – Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers
In the poem, the poet Adrienne Rich addresses the constraints of married life experienced by women, especially her Aunt Jennifer who is shown to be a victim of a male-dominated world. Aunt Jennifer’s embroidered tigers prance (a dance about) across the screen on the panel. The Tigers are bright yellow. They are residents (denizens) or inhabitants of a green world (green forest). Their spirit is free and they are not afraid of the men shown beneath the tree. They walk about fearless, with confidence and with free movements, unperturbed or undisturbed by anything around them.
Aunt Jennifer is making an effort to embroider. Her ‘fingers flutter’ (alliteration) signifying that there is a lack of confidence and that she faces difficulty in pulling out the ivory needles. This depicts her frightened and timid nature because she has suffered at the hands of her husband. The wedding band that she wears on her finger appears to be heavy metaphorically speaking, depicting the ordeals and sufferings that she has been subjected to. Such is the trauma of Jennifer’s life that it may continue to haunt her even after her death. Her hands will still depict the ring (bowed down) which symbolizes the ordeals that suppressed her during her lifetime. On the other hand, her creative expression will continue to live in the form of the tigers that she has created in her panel. The tigers depict a free-spirited being who will continue to dance about, proud and unafraid.
Summary of the lesson in English- Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers (2) :
The first stanza describes Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. These tigers have been made by Aunt Jennifer on the tapestry. Though unreal, they are described as bright, crystalline animals that prance around their ‘world of green’, i.e. forest. These tigers are certain of who they are and what they want. They represent fearlessness, assertion and power. These are the qualities which Aunt Jennifer lacks. In fact, these tigers symbolise the men who dominate human society.
The second stanza describes Aunt Jennifer and her creative skills. She is doing needlework on a panel and making tigers. Her fingers flutter because of the burden of oppression that she has on her. The poet tells about the metaphorical weight of Aunt Jennifer’s wedding band and implies that her marriage was unhappy and prevented her from living a life that she wanted. Uncle’s wedding ‘band’ represents the patriarchal society in which she lived. In fact, Aunt Jennifer seems to live her desires—of being confident and fearless—through the tigers she is making.
The last stanza of the poem takes a morbid turn. It describes what would happen when Aunt Jennifer is dead. Her hands will be ‘terrified’ with the ‘massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band.’ It is evident here that even in her death, she would not win the battle against masculine domination. Even death will not free Aunt Jennifer from her ordeals. The tigers she had made would continue to look ‘proud’ and ‘unafraid’.
The poem deals with the women’s struggle against oppression, rebellion, a patriarchal society.