By Adrienne Rich
Aunt Jennifer's tigers stride 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 striding, proud and unafraid.
The first stanza sets the setting for Aunt Jennifer's dream world for her and her tigers (Aunt Jennifer represents all women who are caught under the oppressive hand of a patriarchal society). Aunt Jennifer's tigers represent what women desired to be like during that time period. The tigers are do not fear men and as depicted on line four are heroic and conduct themselves in a manly fashion. These confidents tigers represent everything women desire to be.
The second stanza represents the reality of Aunt Jennifer's life. She is depicted doing needlepoint, which happens to be a very traditional activity for a woman. However, she is having trouble with this activity as expressed in line 7. Her inability to do this needlepoint represents her inability to express herself in a male dominated society. This weight that rests "heavily" on her hand is not something she enjoys and is oppressing her from doing what she really wants to.
The third stanza gives us a truthful look at the reality and end of Aunt Jennifer. It re-emphasizes the impact living in this patriarchal society had had on her. Despite the tragic end of Aunt Jennifer's life these tigers and the ideas of an oppressed free life for women carry on.
What does Rich say about this poem?
"I'm startled because beneath the conscious craft are glimpses of the split I even then experienced between the girl who...