Critical Analysis of Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich

Critical Analysis of Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

The formalism of “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” hides the more troubling features of the poem and aides the theme of Aunt Jennifer’s ordeals in marriage to the more poetic subject of the divine existence of art. The first verse of the poem defines the fearless tigers Aunt Jennifer creates in needlepoint. But their freedom and dignity is contrasted in the second verse to the restrictions of marriage, symbolized by the wedding band that weighs down Aunt Jennifer’s fingers as she sews. Another major criticism is that the themes are resolved in the final, third, verse: Even death will not free Aunt Jennifer from her ordeals, but the tigers she has created will continue to appear “proud and unafraid.”

It has been detected that Uncle causes Aunt Jennifer anxiety, and that he is dominating her through his mastery. Therefore, Uncle is unfair. Yet, Uncle is identical with Aunt Jennifer’s wedding ring. It is not clear whether the speaker is trying to make clear that marriage is cruel. The first line of the second stanza states that Aunt Jennifer is occupied with wool. Wool is a material that often comes from sheep. Sheep is a term which is frequently used to describe people who are conventional or traditional. Marriage itself is a resolution and a tradition. Perhaps, Aunt Jennifer is anxiety-ridden, because of her choice to be old-fashioned and get married into a domineeringassociation.

The poem has received wide critical appreciation. Adrienne Rich’s poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is a poem of struggle.  The conflict is what takes place within Aunt Jennifer, the craving to break away from the society in which she lives. The poem is convincing because of the struggle between what Jennifer wishes her life to be and what it really is.  The narrator occupies the reader with the description: tigers prance across a screen, and sets this image in contrast to the image of Aunt Jennifer’s fingers with the massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band.

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There is a direct link between revolt and repression, between the individual and the social, between the personal and the political.  This is also the beginning of Rich’s life, long subject of feminism.  This poem cries out for a determination for Aunt Jennifer to throw off the destruction of social and political chains which held women in their homes and tied to husbands they no longer wished to serve.


Poetic Devices

The poetic devices used in this poem are mainly Alliteration, Rhyme, End Rhyme and Couplet.

Sound Devices add sparkle and interest to poetry, allowing a rhythm to form about words, making the reading memorable. Alliteration, rhyme in couplets, and end rhyme are the most common forms of poetic devices found in the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, by Adrienne Rich.

Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginnings of words.An example of Alliteration is: “Aunt Jennifer’s fingers fluttering through her wool”. The repeated “f” sounds in “fingers fluttering” make the poem pleasant to read aloud as the recurrent consonant sounds allow the worlds to appear perhaps, spirited, continuing the mood from the first stanza.

Rhyme can be defined as the occurrence of similar or identical sounds at the ends of two or more words. An example of Rhyme would be: “Aunt Jennifer’s tigers prance across a screen, bright topaz denizens of a world of green.” The rhyme is also set up in the words “screen” and “green” as they share similar sounds “ee”.

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers has a non-stop rhyme pattern at the end of each line, also known as end rhyme, adding a rhythm that continues throughout the piece.

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An EndRhyme is arhyme that occurs at the ends of lines.

For instance:

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.

Screen, green, tree, and certainty all have the same similar sounds at the end of each line. This end rhyme adds a playful rhythm, continuing the melody of the first stanza.

A couplet isa rhymed pair of lines.

Some examples are: “They do not fear the men beneath the tree, They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.”

Every line in the poem Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers has its place to a couplet. Couplets are more related to the form of the poem. However, they also have a relationship with rhyme. Yet again, the continuous couplets, thus continuous rhyme, add a free and playful rhythm, which praises Adrienne Rich’s theme.