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The Use of Symbols in Adrienne Rich's Poem, Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

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The Use of Symbols in Adrienne Rich's Poem, Aunt Jennifer's Tigers


Freedom has always been an important value in the United States that most people are not willing to give up. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a writer who lived in the 1800s, reminded Americans of their rights of liberty at a time when many people started to conform to established norms. He voiced his opinions about the loss of freedom and invited society to realize that they were relinquishing their rights. Years later, his views still had an impact on citizens. Adrienne Rich, a poet of the mid-1900s, also found her autonomy a necessity in life. She wrote a poem in 1951 called "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," which exhibited her opinions about living a life of reliance on others. The poem illustrates a woman sewing a scene of tigers roaming through a field, whose hands are weighed down by the heavy wedding band that she wears. Rich uses the symbols of the ring and the tigers to convey her belief in Emerson's ideas of self-reliance.

An Emerson-influenced world would be one without interdependence, as his principles of self-reliance would be employed. In the 1800s, the American "government and literary movement . . . were calling for conformity" (Loving). During this time, Ralph Waldo Emerson decided to express his disagreement with the movement by publishing "Self Reliance" in 1841, which explained his ideas of the importance of personal independence. He states, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself," illustrating his negative view of relying on others (Loving). His audience, the Americans, grew to agree with his individualistic concepts, leading focus from conformity in society.

Throughout her life, Rich's experiences led her to wish for more independence. In her marr...


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...ctly what Rich discovered through her experiences, primarily from her marriage. The freedom of each person to live as they wish to live is a common value between the two writers. Rich uses the two different symbols in order to express her negative feelings about dependence. By showing her dislike toward the control that one may have over another, she implies her agreement with Emerson's established principles of self-sufficiency.

Works Cited

Litlinks. www.smpcollege.com/litlinks/poetry/rich.htm. Bedford/St.Martin's. March 28, 2000.

Loving, Tim. "What If Aunt Jennifer Had Listened?: Responding With Consequence". www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~nick/evans/firstpapers/tlovingpaper.html. March 28, 2000.

Rich, Adrienne. "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers". Discovering Literature Stories, Poems, Plays. 2nd ed. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River: Blair. 1997. 590

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