Adrienne Rich is an American publicist, poetess, and participant in the second wave of feminism. Adrienne was born in 1929 in Baltimore and died from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis in 2012 in Santa Cruz. The author was close to the ideas of the new left and participated in anti-war demonstrations and the civil rights movements. Adrienne is one of the leading American poetesses and influential figures on the American public scene.
The writer often raised themes of an unequal marriage and displayed feminist ideas in the works. In the poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” Adrienne raises the topic of inequality between men and women in marriage (Rich, 1). Aunt Jennifer, the heroine of the poem, is portrayed as a frightened and nervous housewife. The reason for this condition is an unhappy marriage and a bad relationship with the husband. Jennifer is horrified that her husband is showing disrespect and inequity in their marriage, which poisons the heroine’s life. Moreover, Jeniffer is treated like a slave and is completely controlled. One may notice it by the engagement ring, which was described as “the massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer’s hand” (Rich 1). Jennifer’s life with the husband is portrayed as hard and full of trials, highlighting an unhappy marriage.
The Main Character
The main character has a passion for making different shapes out of wool, and this time Jeniffer made tigers. In the poem, the tiger is depicted as the heroine’s dream of what one would like to be. The tiger is represented as a proud, brave, powerful, and strong-willed animal that does not tolerate disrespect. However, in reality, Jeniffer is completely dependent on the husband, which makes the character’s psychological condition more severe. The heroine is a puppet in the husband’s hands and can do what one likes when the husband is absent. However, even despite the absence of Uncle, Jennifer’s hands still tremble with fear during the activity. It shows complete dependence on the husband and a manifestation of intense fear, which formulates suffering from marriage.
In this case, the art that Jennifer is fond of, namely the figures that are made, is a kind of world in which the heroine can never be. These are symbols of psychological relaxation, which help at least somehow draw the world of Jennifer’s dreams. This environment is full of freedom, respect, and happy emotions, which are symbolized by free and proud animals, namely tigers. However, the realization that the heroine will never be able to fall into this world and how bad the current conditions are, formulate Jeniffer’s suffering.
The Tone of the Work
The tone of the narration brightly reflects the feelings and emotions of the main character about certain objects. Thus, when tigers and the world in which they exist are described, the tone is positive and dreamy. It formulates the desire of the heroine to be in this world that was created because it is filled with those emotions that are not available to Jennifer. However, when the uncle is described, the tone of the story becomes dark and sad. It articulates Jennifer’s emotions about marriage, namely fear, sadness, and oppression. It is also connected with external factors, the manifestation of the character’s emotions, namely the fact that Jeniffer’s “fingers flattering” (Rich 1). These are external manifestations of the extreme stage of fear and horror due to the husband, which formulates a difficult life situation and an unhappy marriage.
The genre of the poem is feminist literature, which is formulated by the plot and symbols in work. The author used the symbol of the animal as a bright and contrasting example that displays strong emotions. Moreover, the traits of tigers, such as pride, courage, and the ability to resist, are a compensation for the feelings of the main character. These are exactly the emotions and feelings that Jennifer lacks, so the heroine displays them with the help of art. It is a common psychological technique when an individual creates the world one dreams about in films, literature, or painting. It helps Jennifer indirectly experience these emotions, although not in the real world, but in the world of fantasy and art.
The rhymes of the poem formulate the ABAB pattern, and the meter is written in iambic pentameter. “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is written in 12 lines, and it includes three stanzas, each of that has four lines and is completed of two couplets. Despite the small size of the poem, Adrienne was able to fit many factors into a few couplets. It is both a display of one’s own life and a display of tigers as a symbol. In addition, the author was able to describe the tigers and indicate their readiness and strength to resist people. Finally, the author was able to convey the difficult psychological state of the main character with the help of internal experiences and external factors.
To conclude, the above elements clearly paint a picture of an unhappy marriage. Because of the masterful ability to fit many things into a small poem and vividly display experiences, this work became so well-known. Adrienne was able to combine two worlds in the poem, the real unhappy world and the fictional blessed world, which the main character desires to be in.
Rich, Adriene. Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers. Web.