Neeraj Baghel

Abstract Inspirational Children


Neeraj Baghel

Abstract Inspirational Children

A deep analysis of Aunt Jennifer's Tigers by Adrienne Rich

A deep analysis of Aunt Jennifer's Tigers by Adrienne Rich

7 mins

Adrienne Cecile Rich was born in the year 1929. The American poet was most widely known for her writings pondering over the women’s world. Her influences that she drew were largely based on marriage life difficulties. It is hard to forget her work- Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers in this regard. It would not be an exaggeration to conclude that the piece of work is the best possible representation of post-marriage life for a major portion of the women section. This post seeks to undertake Aunt Jennifer's Tigers as inspiration and explore a few more questions that have not been given due attention that they rightfully deserve. It would be my priority to balance my opinions without hurting the sentiments of anyone. First of all, let us read the poem one more time. 

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

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


The poet talks about a woman whom she addresses as Aunt Jennifer. Aunt Jennifer is perhaps knitting a sweater and she is weaving a pair of tigers. The poet also describes the movements the tigers are making and the way the animals look. Then alluding back to Aunt Jennifer again, the moot point is touched. The issues that Aunt Jennifer is facing in her marriage life. Animals are prancing back and forth fearlessly in front of men. The tigers look elegant. The lady’s fingers are fluttering with the fear of her husband. She is fearful of such an extent that she feels difficulty in pulling the needles. Another thing that weighs her morale down is the ring. The lady is dependent on her husband. She is still burdened by the weight of the ring. 

Why did the speaker choose to address Jennifer as Aunt?

It is exceptionally evident that Adrienne is very watchful in utilizing as few words as possible to take up this topic. And she, I believe, succeeds remarkably in doing that. She could have addressed Aunt Jennifer simply as Jennifer who just got married, but then, marriage is a bond that demands a few years of time to understand each other. Adjust in accordance with the new life. Jennifer has been married for a long and therefore, the word “Aunt” is not correlative of age here, but the span of years that Aunt Jennifer has been enduring issues in marriage to uncle almost endlessly all through her life.


Now, If the writer of the poem, which I believe, is Adrienne herself (and I am going to assume it is Adrienne in the further segments as well) had picked up a young woman who just got married in the time of Aunt Jennifer and sat sewing tigers and discussing the problems in married life, there was a conceivable threat which could lead to the perception that the newly married woman just surrendered trying to resolve issues in her marriage. Issues…. that are inevitable to evade in the underlying years. 

Making older women talk about troubled efforts in order to make the marriage work for as long as possible is relatively perceptible. It is imaginable that the woman would have done all in her might not to end the relationship. As a result of which, she has led an unhappy married life till now. She is fed up with restrictions, not able to have her say. The last thing that she resorts to, to express the disappointment is knitting. Her best tool. As writing at that time was still a restricted domain for women.


Why Adrienne lends her voice to the character rather than letting the character speak herself?

Once more, Adrienne is exceptionally shrewd in not letting Aunt Jennifer take up the matter into her hands. On the off chance that she had done that, envision a woman who has been languishing problems for years and been given the voice to let it all out. It would turn into complete mayhem. She would have sounded more like a nagging wife who just wouldn’t quit finding faults in ways of her husband. But instead, Adrienne, reports the matter with tranquility.

The work leaves its impact because the words used are few. They have done their job perfectly. She rightly places words such as fear, flutter, ordeal, hard to pull, the massive weight of the wedding band, etc. This is a serious matter that needs to be addressed composedly. Any negative annotation could have dis balanced the purpose with which Adrienne Rich began the poem initially.


Adrienne attempts to leave a powerful hidden message through the poem. What is the message?

There is a powerful message in the poem which has been addressed. The message is that Nature is Supreme and above all. The tigers that Aunt Jennifer is knitting, prance fearlessly in front of the men who are sitting beneath the tree. Men and Tigers; both have inherent qualities of being fearless, free, and powerful. Both are the masters in the art of dominating and when both come together to create a more horrible sight. This is perhaps the reason why Aunt Jennifer’s fingers flutter through the wool and she finds it difficult to pull the ivory needle.


The first question that strikingly hits the mind of the readers is that what difficulties Aunt Jennifer has endured which has brought her to this point? Human beings belong to a category called Social Animals. We are a part of the civilized community. It is not natural to fear each other. But still, Aunt Jennifer is terrified of her husband. She is extremely cautious even in the absence of her husband. She fears being scolded by him for pursuing her hobby in her free time. This is evidently talked about in the Third Stanza. And according to the speaker, this fear is an ordeal that Aunt Jennifer will be mastered by until her death and even after her death.


However, Adrienne ascribes tigers with more adjectives like- chivalric, sleek, bright denizens of a world of green, proud, and unafraid. But she alludes to these very words by the end of the poem. This segment draws the distinction between the desire for freedom and life in actuality.


Death will bring her freedom. And this time, the tigers that she has produced are perhaps her children who will enjoy a fearless world that she was unable to. They will be her legacy. They will, as the speaker says-

“When Aunt is dead…………...

The tigers in the panel that she made

Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid”


Aunt Jennifer will die soon given the situation, however, her children will remind uncle, how he made their mother’s life difficult while she lived. This is how nature comes back in full throttle. Change is inevitable. Nothing remains the same forever. 


Why does Adrienne choose to select Tigers instead of any other animal?

To be forthright, Adrienne too, grew up in a world where men dominated. A world created by men. And where “Men” are often attributed with terms like- Fearless, Powerful. They belong to a class-ridden hierarchy which is predominantly patriarchal. There is a whole range of such words we append with men. All these words are inherent traits in Tigers. 


I would like you to consider this circumstance for a minute to help my claim. I may sound a bit overwhelmed here. Any of your loved ones is participating in a contest. They are not left with much strength to carry on. They are almost on the verge of giving up. What words you would possibly choose to motivate them. Words…. that you believe hold the power to resuscitate their vitality and fight back. I am doubtful that you would choose any other than- “Go Tiger Go”. Wouldn’t you? Now, nobody says- “Go Lion Go” or “Go Elephant Go”. NO, we say “Go Tiger Go”. Don’t we?

Adrienne picks tigers as her embroidery motifs as she is also following a code which she has been told to. It is part of a confession drawn from the contemporary life of a woman. She does not go on an awry path or a road that has not been tread upon earlier. And thus, it is apt, why she knits tigers instead of any other animal.


Adrienne Rich is a thought-provoking writer. The poem is a testament to her knowledge of a world that is demanding and the consequences when one fails in recuperating those demands. She presents a vivid image of married life. It is not pessimistic in tone but realistic. 


Share your thoughts on how you read Adrienne Rich's Aunt Jennifer's Tigers. How you conjectured upon the poem when you read it. 

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