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Critical appreciation of "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers"

This poem was written in 1951 in the beginning of Adrienne Rich's poetic career. This poem is a vigorous protest against male chauvinism and patriarchy which want to marginalize woman in every front. This poem offers a clear statement against the traditional marriage relationship where women take the secondary role. Like Aunt Jennifer, millions of women still are living a life of deprivation and subjugation. So this poem belongs to the feminist literary genre like the poem, "Daddy" of Sylvia Plath or the essay, "Women and fiction" of Virginia Woolf.

Rich has used the animal imagery to inject the power and vigour in the vision of Jennifer which she terribly misses in her personal life. Tigers are the popular symbols of power and rebellion as we find in Blake's poem. "The Tyger". Blake's tiger represents greatness of divine power and Rich's tigers signify the vital life force which the conventional society hardly allows to women. The creator of the tigers, Jennifer lives a life of fear, depression and submission. But her tigers are fiercely uncompromising. Here the animal imagery suggests violence and energy which women aspire to acquire but painfully lack.

The poem consists of three regular stanzas, each rhyming as aa bb. It is a conventional rhyme scheme. However, Rich has brought the protest through this pattern. It seems that she has made the poem's structure conventional to highlight the conventionality of the protagonist's life and discuss about Critical appreciation of "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers".

The poem's voice is distant which is created by the third person point of view. The third person narrator, a third person view point and the older generation have made Aunt Jennifer more authentic. The choice of diction suggests the vigour of the animals and the lifelessness of Jennifer. The words 'prance', 'pace', 'denizen', 'bright', 'proud', unafraid', 'sleek', chivalric' are associated with tigers. However, negative words like 'massive weight', sits heavily, 'terrified hand', ringed', and 'ordeals' highlight the weak points of Jennifer's life. Moreover, in the case of tigers we get references to strong verbs and active voices. On the contrary, in Jennifer's case we get passive voices suggesting the passivity of her life.

The poem's structure hints at the parallel existence of freedom and fear. In the first stanza we get a description of the tigers. In the next stanza we find the picture of Jennifer's life. In the final stanza Jennifer's life and the tigers' fearless movements interact. The final victory is of the tigers which outlive the death of the woman. The first 'stanza describes artistic freedom but the second stanza narrates patriarchal power. The structural similarity between the two stanzas rather highlights the binary opposition between rebellion and repression. In the final stanza repression and rebellion are seen together. It indicates that women can revolt if only they throw away the conventions represented by the wedding ring.

The central symbols of the poem are the tapestry tigers and the Uncle's wedding band. The tapestry tigers are not just individual artistic expressions; they are politically inflected, engaged in patriarchal chivalry myths. The personal and the political again meet in the intimacy of Uncle's wedding band. By the physical intimacy of a wedding band and by the familial presence conferred by 'Uncle's , wedding band', Aunt Jennifer's Tigers specify the presence of patriarchal politics. The interplay between rebellion and repression has made the poem interesting. This poem underscores the theme of power and social status. Aunt Jennifer is assigned the role of an aunt. She has no independent identity. In the poem her name is mentioned four times, and in every occasion she is an aunt. This imposition has fragmented her role. 

This poem identifies the problems of women in the society. The male dominated society subordinates women. So they have nothing to do but continue the roles imposed on them by the male counterparts. Aunt Jennifer is the representative of these ill-fated women. Marriage as an institution does not support them. It rather ensures their eternal bondage. That's why the wedding ring is inseparable in Jennifer's life. The final stanza points at the contrast between the fearless tigers and the lifeless aunt. In fact through this contrast Rich is stressing at the basic idea of feminism. According to feminism woman are deprived of the equal status because of the social strictures and repressions. The tigers are beyond these norms, but Jennifer is confined within it.


πš‚πšŠπš’πšπšžπš› π™ΌπšŠπš—πš—πšŠ said...

Good analysis indeed.

Anonymous said...

Marvelous work

Anonymous said...

best analysis so far. keep up with the work.fighting!!!

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