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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of the poem by

32 Comments

  1. Adam K says:

    The marriage of Aunt Jennifer is becoming strained. She seems to deal with her emotions by sewing, which evokes gender roles in society. The heavy ring on her finger makes the reader feel as though she wishes to take it off. She cannot, however, and even in death her hands will not lie still and calm. She seems to be trapped in her gender roles as wife and caretaker and is unable to roam free like the tigers she sews into her cloth.

  2. Katriece says:

    It is clear in this poem that Aunt Jennifer finds release in her art. She is putting the pain and anger she feels from her marraige into the tigers. They represent “proud and unafraid” beings which Aunt Jennifer wishes she was.

  3. Kelsey says:

    Art is an escape for a lot of people and Aunt Jennifer is one of them. She wants to be free and fearless and have the power but she cannot get away from the source of her problems, even in death. She not happy in her marriage and she does not feel like there is anything she can do but sit and suffer through it which is why the art and the tigers are so important and represent what she wishes she could have.

  4. Mitch says:

    Jenny seems like she is in a struggling and damaging marriage. I think she uses her art to express the way she wants to feel. She wants to be free and her own person.

  5. Krista says:

    Aunt Jennifer uses her art to escape from the societal contracts she is bound to. She creates these beautiful, strong tigers who are free kings and queens of the forest. They make their own decisions. The tigers do not fear men in the way that she does and do not cower in the face of pressure; their world is wild and free where hers is controlled.
    This poem refers to an early time. It is not common nowadays to create screens made of wool and to use an ivory needle to do so. This leads me to think that her marriage with the uncle was arranged or she was forced into it for familial or societal reasons.
    Her wedding ring weighs her down until death because it represents her lack of freedom. The phrase “terrified hands” makes me think that her marriage was abusive or she was incredibly timid or fragile. Even in death, it seems she has not found freedom, but the tigers will keep representing the strength she wished she had.

  6. Anu says:

    Aunt Jennifer has to restrain her desires being a woman and the only way she can express her independent nature is by comparing herself with fearless tigers. Maybe by screen in “tigers prance across the screen” she is talking about screen of canvas, wool or paper where she can express anything she wants and that will last longer than her controlled life.

  7. Margaret says:

    In this poem, Aunt Jennifer is in an unhappy and restricting marriage, which is why her hand is weighed down by the wedding band. Through her art, she creates tigers who are free and not afraid of men, as she is. When she dies, she is still not free from the hardships she endured in her marriage, but her tigers remain free. I think through art, people can express their feelings and create worlds in which they wish they lived in, as Aunt Jennifer does in the poem.

  8. Arafath Raihan says:

    Aunt Jennifer was not mastered by her husband. She was mastered by the old, obstractive system of the society. And the tigers prancing beneath the trees symbolize, she can hardly wait to express her briliantness. So keep in mind that it is not Uncle’s false for everything.

  9. kawsar says:

    I think its very important for women. Here is strong voice against women oppression.

  10. HELLO says:

    IT IS NOT GOOD POEM HAHAHAHAHAHA

  11. sumita dhar says:

    It’s an expression to project the way women are suppressed in our so called male dominated society. many a times the aspirations and talents lie latent , aunt jenny moves ahead give a silent but bold reply to the dominance silently and aptly.Weaves her dream on the panel and quietly give vent to her needs ,though none have understood yet she has kept her hope desire alive.

  12. dayal says:

    aunt jenny has been subjected to exploitation by her husband representing patriarchal society.she is docile and has endured this pain without a word of protest .she did not open her feelings to any one .her emotions ,her feelings her frustration find expression in the form of tiger she has created .these tigers represent her mute reply to her husband and the society she lives in . she understands that she should have been free should have faced her husband boldly but only god knows why she preferred to tolerate the attrocities silently

  13. akshay says:

    This is pat of my curriculum and i love this poem and at first i thought it was about abuse in a marital relationship but now i think it is more about general patriarchy.

  14. D says:

    I imagine that the tigers are actually masters by thier own right, while the creator of them is infact enslaved. Here the irony exists.

  15. Hampton Graham says:

    as adrienne focuses on the tiger she includes colors, which I believe are choosen colors to help focus on happiness and to hope that Aunt Jennifer’s marriage will become better. And if any body knows the answer to this question: does Aunt Jennifer die?

  16. ANN MARIE MAGNO says:

    IT IS HARD TO UNDERSTAND THE INTENTION OF THE WRITER IN WRITING THE POEM BUT IF YOU WILL EVALUATE IT YOU WLL BE CRAZY. I ASSURE YOU, YOU WILL BE LIKE ME

  17. ANNALYN RAMOS says:

    IT IS A VERY DEVASTATING POEM ESPECIALLY ON THE WOMEN’S PART

  18. maryam mir says:

    i think that the poem is an expression of feelings,desires,emotions,problems and conflicts of poetess on the part of every woman.is is the outcome of deep seated fear,search for assertion,disgust for slavery, conflict,greatness of struggle and hope ultimately

  19. Kayla says:

    The imagery brought forth by this poem is of a woman, oppressed by marriage, the world that she lives in, and ordeals in her past, seeking a refuge and not unlike many that came before her. Her refuge is art a world that she creates and has complete control over. She is given hope by this refuge and is able to continue her life with the oppressor.

  20. Rachel says:

    I read a version of this poem where the first and last lines contained forms of the verb “stride” instead of “prance.” I’m wondering if there’s an error here or if this is just a different edit of the poem…I much prefer “stride” and it’s connotations, the “prancing” almost bothers me! Doesn’t it just trivialize the weight of these tigers?

  21. s.srinivasan iyer says:

    adrienne rich herself experienced the power of male wisdom in the society.her experiences in life has led her to foray in the path of radical feminism,and “aunt jenny’s tigers” is a representative poem of that path.aunt is “ringed with the ordeals” and is mastered by her husband.her hands are so weak that she is not able to handle the “ivory needle”.thus,it is imperative that the aunt is impotent to affect a change,or rather has been converted into a weak entity.this speaks volumes of the biased matrimonial balance in the modern society,though things are changing,Rich’s view still holds relevance as her speech cannot be silenced..

  22. farhat usman says:

    Aunt jeni is a spokesperson to the woman of the entire world. Her tigers not only represent her free will but there is a message in the depiction of the Tigers i.e the women should be as brave and courageous as tigers in the jungal.They should not be exploited by paterarchal social order.They are not slave to men but they as free as men are.

  23. srinivasan says:

    adrienne rich raises her concern against patriarchy by emphasizing the weight of man’s control in a matrimony.the power that society allocates to a man,isnot allocatede to a woman.rich simply describes the dominance of patriarchy in the society.

  24. S says:

    Basically, Aunt Jens attitude towards marriage may just be the influence of her culture and tradition where it is expected of the woman to become a housewife. However even willing to become one successfully, she finds herself caught up in an enduring struggle of how she can acomplish this.

  25. A says:

    Feminism aside, you are all missing a crucial clue which opens up the entire poem: the allusion to Ovid’s story of Philomela.

  26. xarak says:

    Another point that most of us seems to have missed is that the tiger’s-which on the one hand embody aunt jennifer’s free spirit as opposed to her body being ‘mastered by ordeal’, on the other it also show’s her thwarted sense of freedom. Tiger’s are particularly described as moving in ‘chivalric certainity’ and that has male patriarchal connotations. Her rebellion reflects her repression in that she expresses it, ironically, in the language of the oppressor. Moreover, the ‘men under the tree’ and tigers prancing in a ‘world of green’ reek heavily of colonialism- another form of oppression- Buddha as the man under the tree and tigers both are allusions to Imperialism in india. Besides aunt jennifer working with ‘ivory needles’ also has imperialistic connotations- this time reminding one of the spoils of africa.

  27. Holly says:

    This work tells of “Aunt Jennifer”, who is the symbol of feminism in this particular poem. This poem offers an image of power revealed and restrained by domestic arts. This is shown in the case that she is restrained by her husband’s wedding band, thus revealing that she Aunt Jennifer was expected to be a devoted and domesticated wife. Aunt Jennifer living her part in a man’s world is forcing her into a role that she does not fit naturally.
    1.Introduction of the tigers, how they are prancing across a screen–this is symbolizing Aunt Jennifer, roaming in a world freely; although it is telling of a screen she crafted.
    2.The tigers are bright topaz denizens because they are different in the world, and are not just plain, (green), like everyone else. This symbolizes Aunt Jennifer’s individual thinking, and how she is different.
    3.The tigers don’t fear the men beneath the tree because Aunt Jennifer did not fear men at first and was living as an independent individual with her own mind.
    4.The tigers are slowly walking elegantly, showing that they are confident and ‘chivalric’ (gentlemanly)—this may show that Aunt Jennifer knows she is fine without having to be married.
    5.This line is telling of Aunt Jen’s fingers ‘fluttering’ through her wool–this is just an allusion using an activity she likes to do, to tell of how she was roaming freely and happily before marriage.
    6.The ivory needle is a symbol for how hard it is to keep yourself independent and essentially a free-thinker when you are married.
    7.Uncle’s wedding band on her finger is massive because he is strict towards how she should be a domesticated wife and not a free soul.
    8.It “sits heavily upon her hand” because her marriage has taken a toll on her, and she can feel it heavily on her heart and soul.
    9.When Aunt Jen dies, she will die as a lonely and depressed woman, and her hands are terrified because they never got to be free again.
    10.Jen’s hands stand as a symbol of her body, in that she was tired and sick from the ordeals (being a housewife) that she was mastered by [her husband–making her act this way]
    11-12.The tigers are a symbol of what will be left of Aunt Jen’s existence after her death, in that she never got to “prance” as proud and unafraid when she was married and was constrained by what women were expected

  28. holly says:

    I Think that “Aunt JEnnifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool find even he ivory needle hard to pull” show another example of how she is trying to be artistic but she’s struggling. “the MASSIVE weight of Uncle’s wedding band sits HEAVILY…” when Ric uses these adjectives it gives the idea that Aunt Jennifer’s marriage is weighing her down artistically.

  29. Ilianna says:

    “The massive weight of Uncle’s wedding ring” and “Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by”… I think these passages suggest that marriage can be constricting, not just for her, but any woman. She was alive and free to be herself in her artwork, but not in real life.

  30. K says:

    Man, this song is really just about Tigers, literally. I don’t think it’s any kind of weird metaphor. She just liked tigers!

  31. Cheryl says:

    Aunt Jennifer’s art is her mode of expressing her true feelings. Being married to a man is a constriction on her freedoms. Living her part in a man’s world is forcing her into a role that she does not fill naturally. Her nature is that of a free spirit, as the tigers are. Free to roam with a grace that she cannot possess under the powers of a man.

  32. Thibaut says:

    Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, one of Rich’s first published poems, was already a token of the inner split she has always deeply thought of as the starting point for the construction of her self. Aunt Jennifer, just like Rich, is torn between the woman artist and the woman who has to define herself in a men’s world. Though she has the power to produce beauty, to be the tigers in her canvas, she is quite violently retrained by a patriarchal ostracism from the world of art, by double standards and the life she is expected to lead. In the end, we readers witness the sublimation of art and of its creator, as the tigers “go on prancing, proud and unafraid.”

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