Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century”. Also bought “the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse”. Rich criticized rigid forms of feminist identities, and valorized what she coined the “lesbian continuum”. Below poem Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers is one of her famous poems.
Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. She was a famous poet, essayist and feminist. She has published nineteen volumes of poetry, three collections of essays and other writings.
The poet expresses the inner feelings of a woman – Aunt Jennifer. The aunt is embroidering a motif comprising of energetic, fearless tigers moving freely around the bright greenery. She is living a life of submissiveness to her husband’s command. Her acts are dominated by him and she fears him constantly. This pattern of the free and fearless tigers reflects her inner desire to live a free and fearless life. The tigers are graceful, elegant and bright.
Aunt Jennifer’s fingers tremble as she embroiders. She is old but still fears her husband. She does not enjoy the freedom to do anything as per her wish. Also, she is scared doing the embroidery and fears his wrath. She fulfils the demands of her husband each day. The wedding ring on her hand is a constant reminder that she belongs to her husband. The burden of the demanding marriage has exhausted her. The torment will not end until her death.
Even after her death, the ring will remain on her hand and she will never be free. On the other hand, the tigers that she is embroidering will continue to move around freely forever. Her desire of freedom and fearlessness will live on through her tigers.
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.
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