Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

Aunt Jennifer's finger fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.

by Adrienne Rich

Comments (9)

With all the rhetoric surrounding women’s rights these days, I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot. My sister was in college when I was asked, in 5th grade, to analyze a poem for the first time. To me, Aunt Jennifer has always been the woman who couldn’t escape the husband she was afraid of, even in death. She made the tiger panels to remind her niece of her plight, and encourage her to avoid a similar fate. In other words, I think the message of the poem is a combination of “be careful who you marry” and “learn from the mistakes of previous generations of women”. Hear me roar!
Aunt Jennifer's life is clearly an unfavourable one: the ring sits heavily upon her hand, suggesting that her marriage isn't happy. In the last stanza, the poem says that 'When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie / Still ringed with ordeals that she was mastered by' (lines 9 and 10) . I also think that the word 'lie' is suggestive of more than one interpretation. The hands will lay on her chest, clasped together, and they will appear fine. But, in this respect, they are also lying to pretend that everything is alright. The fact that her hands are ringed with these ordeals-not plagued or suffered, but 'ring'ed-also suggests that her marriage is an unhappy one. She's living in an androcentric world; men are the center of attention and the important decision makers. As for the tigers that she knits into her panel, I believe they represent power, might, and freedom. From her feminine perspective-a perspective that is undoubtedly kept within her soul because of her oppression-they represent a future that she wishes for; one that is filled with 'sleek chivalric certainty' (line 4) and one where she can 'pranc[e], proud and unafraid' (line 12) . To answer your question, no, they are not live tigers.
I remember reading this poem in school and how everyone just assumed the weight of her husband's ring was because of something negative regarding her husband. It occured to me since Ms Rich comes from a Jewish heritage, perhaps Aunt Jennifer may be Jewish. I recalled a movie i saw once about Nazi Germany and how this young man's job was to deliver a wooden box. Everytime he did as he left he heard the screams of the women come out their house. He got curious and opened a box and inside was ash and a wedding ring. I thought perhaps the weight of her husband's ring could be due to grief
This poem is almost beyond poetry. Any analysis is foolish.
Aunt Jennifer is laik r8 banging yo's
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