Who is Aunt Jennifer? Does she even exist? I had to ask myself these questions before even going further into the poem. The answers opened the door to a deeper meaning behind Aunt Jennifer's Tigers. Based on Adrienne Rich's background I believe Aunt Jennifer did exist. However, Aunt Jennifer was not Rich's aunt. Aunt Jennifer represented women all over the world, particularly women in American, who were caught under the oppressive hand of a patriarchal society. Adrienne Rich was perhaps one of those women. Rich, one of the most influential poets of her time, dealt with controversial issues such as sexuality, race, language, power, and women's culture. Her passion in this area forced her to look and challenge the standard and the norm. The popular cliché that refers to marriage as that old "ball and chain" takes on a more serious meaning with Rich as she reveals, through the simple lines of Aunt Jennifer's Tigers, a woman's struggles with expression, rebellion, and a society where power is defined as masculine.
Aunt Jennifer's Tigers
by Adrienne Rich
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 fingers fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
Sit's heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.
When Aunt Jennifer 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.
Rich begins her poem with a beautiful picture, setting the scene for the dream wo...
... middle of paper ...
...it through masculine images. Those images were all she had ever known. Aunt Jennifer never got to see women standing strong and proud because they were simply women. She missed out on watching women become astronauts, businesswomen, artists, and policemen. The reason her needlepoint went "on prancing and proud and unafraid" was because the needlepoint represented all things masculine and therefore, had nothing to fear.
In the end, Adrienne Rich showed that Aunt Jennifer represented every woman of her time. Ironically enough, she rebels using the oppressor's own language to feel a sense of triumph. Overwhelmed by gender roles, unable to communicate firsthand how they really felt, and torn between rebellion, expression, and society, Aunt Jennifer represses her fears and desires into the exotic tigers which go on living even after the weight of her world buries her.
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