‘In her poetry Rich deals with complex and difficult themes in a striking and unusual way.’ (2008)
I found Adrienne Rich’s poetry intriguing and at times difficult to read. In many of her poems such as ‘Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers’ and ‘From a Survivor’, Rich deals with difficult and complex themes that are both personal and political. Her ability to capture these themes in a series of cinematic, striking and memorable images is admirable. I found her work engaging and I truly enjoyed the work of this feminist writer. ‘Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers’ was one of Rich’s early poems and was written in 1951, when the poet was only twenty two. It is quite a simple poem, but on the other hand the simplicity is deceptive. On reading the first stanza the poem appears to be solely observational, ‘Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen’. It describes the character sitting at home doing needle work. Simple. Or is it? As one continues to read the poem certain lines leap out from the page like the tigers. ‘The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’ is a powerful and unusual image. A wedding ring is normally shown in a positive light but Rich chose the adjective ‘massive’ which I believe to be in a negative context. This ring symbolises oppression. Also we are told that ‘her terrified hands’ will continue to be ‘ringed with ordeals she was mastered by’. This has a very strong connection to slavery and control. It becomes apparent that this poem is not as simple as one may think. It in fact deals with a very serious and uneasy theme of the oppression of women by a patriarchal society. The poem is flooded with powerful images and metaphors. Aunt Jennifer herself is symbolic of oppression; the ring represents marriage and is depicted in an extremely negative light. The tigers themselves are metaphors for the potential beauty and intelligence that lies within Aunt Jennifer. The image of her fingers ‘fluttering through her wool’ suggests dexterity, skill and talent. Yet she finds...
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