Explication of Adrienne Rich's "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers"

Essay by sanssocs2College, UndergraduateA, October 2003

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Adrienne Rich did a wonderful job portraying the trials of abused and battered women in this poem. These trials could possibly be explained by Rich being the niece of Aunt Jennifer; therefore, personal feelings are exposed throughout the piece. The speaker speaks in an admiring, sincere, tone and her sympathy is apparent because she herself is a female. Rich's poem, "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" is about the trials of an older woman in distress because her marriage is in trouble, and she is too afraid to leave her husband. The most apparent point in the poem is the ongoing contrast between the fictional tigers and Aunt Jennifer.

The tigers represent a powerful character created by Aunt Jennifer through her needlework, which she uses as an escape. While the tigers move with certainty, "Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen" (1). Aunt is nervous and afraid: "Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool" (5).

Webster's dictionary defines flutter as a condition of nervous agitation. Aunt is agitated and in a hurry to create the image of the tigers to get her mind off of her husband. "Bright topaz denizens of a world of green" (2) creates a feeling of greenery which represents the living surroundings of the jungle where a tiger would be found. Line two shows the reader how Aunt describes the tiger's home, while at the same time Aunt is in her home. The contrast is shown between Aunt Jennifer and the tigers through the attitude of the characters.

Aunt Jennifer creates images of tigers because it gives a sense of protection against Aunt's husband and all men in her eyes. "They do not fear the men beneath the trees" (3), speaking of the tigers for their brave stand against the men, whereas the Aunt is scared of...