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Home » » What is symbol in poetry?

A symbol is something that stands for some other thing. In poetry, use of symbols is very common. Sometimes an object, an image, a word, or words evoke some meaning or meanings beyond their simple outward meanings. ‘Black’ is the symbol of condolence, white is the symbol of purity, tiger or lion is the symbol of strength and so on. Some words in poetry may be symbolic in meaning. This symbolic meaning is also called connotative meaning. The depth of a poem may be enhanced for the poet’s skilful use of symbols.

“Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” by Adrienne Rich is a poem having possibilities of multiple symbolic meanings and interpretations. Some of the words and phrases in the poem need to be interpreted symbolically. For example, the tigers that are embroidered by Aunt Jennifer provide not only the impression of fearlessness and chivalry but symbolically express the inner spirit of freedom and fearlessness. Outwardly, Aunt Jennifer’s marriage band is heavy upon her hand for which she cannot pull the needles comfortably. But symbolically the heavy wedding band refers to the bondage and servitude that a woman has to accept through her marriage. Marriage band restricts a woman’s freedom in her life. She cannot go out of the male dominated social boundary. Symbolically, the poem, as a whole, is feminist in spirit. Aunt Jennifer’s inner spirit is a spirit of revolt—a revolt against the male dominated society, where a woman can hardly exercise her freedom — her own likes and dislikes. 


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