Adrienne Rich (1929 – 2012) is an American poet who dealt with real-life themes with a feminist approach. This poem belongs to her first collection of poems called Change of World. This poem was published in 1951.
This poem describes an embroidery made by her aunt Jennifer. This poem is as beautiful as embroidery, as the poem itself portrays the picture of tigers and the men under the tree.
The poem consists of three stanzas and it deals with the themes of the need for women’s empowerment and the oppressive nature of married life. The poet uses the symbol of the tiger in the poem as it represents the inbuilt self-determination.
In the first stanza, the poet introduces the focal object of the poem, the embroidery made by her aunt Jennifer. she depicts the embroidery as the fearless tigers who move swiftly and are observed by the men under the tree. The poet clearly mentions that tigers are valiant and they focus on their moves.
In the second stanza, the poet is concerned about her aunt who is meek but who creates valiant tigers. She finds an intellectual conflict in how one creates something that is not part of them. The speaker points out the wedding ring of her Aunt and Rich describes it as massive to denote how marriage has changed her aunt’s life. rich presents the wedding ring as a symbol of oppression.
In the final stanza, she mocks the concept of eternity bound with marriage. She expresses her grievance about how long will that ring accompany a woman; she confines that it will be with her even in her grave. Even after her death, she is not free from the clutches of marriage.
The poet is optimistic that even though her aunt is subjugated under social norms the tiger she created on her embroidery will live forever fearlessly.
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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 finger 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.