Adrienne Rich was brought up in a well off family. Rich felt dominated by her father’s strong personality while growing up. It was he who most guided her as a young poet. This wasn’t always to her liking as he expected her to write her poems his way. When Rich was growing up men dominated and women were expected to become dutiful wives in their adult lives. All these elements may have influenced the picture of marriage Rich drew in this poem. At the heart of the poem is an image of a husband who controls and frightens his wife. Rich wrote a lot of poems based on everyday experience. One topic she often featured was the tension, women felt due to being dominated by their husbands. In ‘Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers’ Rich is mocking the weakness of Aunt Jennifer and the clout and authority of Jennifer’s husband in their marriage.
In the poem ‘Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers’ a woman expresses her suppressed feelings through her art. Aunt Jennifer is the victim of the male dominated society. She has no one to tell her mental and physical pain. She makes a picture to convey her deep feelings. The speaker describes the tigers which her aunt produced on the panel. They are set in motion. They are moving quickly by raising the front legs and jumping forwards on the back legs. In the green jungle they look free, bright, brave, fearless and magnificent. There are men sitting under the tree, but the tigers do not. They move on to their goal boldly and smoothly. Jennifer finds it difficult to make pictures by using the ivory needle. She is tired of doing the household work after she got married. She can’t get herself involved in her artistic work. She has to do it in her leisure time. Even then she has to be sure whether her husband is watching her or not. So her hands are terrified. She will not be free from fear until she dies. She will be dominated by her husband. She will die, but her art will express her desire to move proudly and fearlessly like the tigers she has made.
- In this poem, the poet addresses the constraints of married life, experienced by a woman.
- Aunt Jennifer weaves tigers into the panel. These tigers are brave & have no fear of men.
- Aunt Jennifer is terrified by her dominating husband. Her finger flutters due to the mental suppression. She is not happy with her married life.
- She will die but her art will express her desire to move proudly and fearlessly like the tigers she has made.