Adrienne Rich’s poem, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, is structurally quite monotonous. The three stanzas are all comprised of two, simple couplets. However, the minimalist organization of this poem prevents the structural aspects from outshining Rich’s figurative machinery. For example, this relatively short poem has an abundance of symbols. One of the most prominent symbols is Aunt Jennifer’s wedding ring; harsh descriptive language leaves the readers with a negative outlook on her marriage. Aunt Jennifer’s toxic relationship leads her to admire the strength of tigers. Through her art, Aunt Jennifer is able to embody the strength of tigers, despite her frail physique. She not only discovers an escape from her dire marriage through her art, but she gains immortality; her woven pictures of tigers will last longer than her delicate, physical entity. Rich argues that one’s art is more eternally relevant than one’s reputation and relationships. In the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, Adrienne Rich shows how negativity can fuel one’s passions, which allows them to define their own legacy. The textual evidence is given through symbols such as the wedding ring, the tigers, and Aunt Jennifer’s art.
Aunt Jennifer’s wedding band symbolizes the negative aspects of her marriage. Rich utilizes harsh imagery when referring to the wedding ring: “the massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band” (Rich 7). The phrase “massive weight” (7) hints that the marriage is a burden to Aunt Jennifer due to its symbolic heaviness. Additionally, despite Aunt Jennifer wearing the ring, it is still referred to as her husband’s property. This could be done to represent that her husband is not only controlling, but that Aunt Jennifer has no possessions of her own. Therefore, the ring represents the lost of identity. This is further emphasized in the third stanza when Rich’s imagery turns more morbid. Even after Aunt Jennifer dies, she will “still [be] ringed with ordeals she was mastered by”...
Cited: Rich, Adrienne. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”. The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Shorter 5th
ed. Alexander Allison, Herbert Barrows, Caesar R. Blake, Arthur K. Carr, Arthur M Eastman, Hubert M. English, Jr. Norton: New York, 2005. 1114-1115. Print.
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