Saturday, September 20, 2008

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich


Aunt Jennifer's 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 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.
Adrienne Rich

A note: I stopped teaching CBSE 5 years ago and I'm out of touch. So I haven't really worked on the explanations and edited them. You might find some of the explanations not up to the mark especially this poem. You will surely find better explanations on the net. One such site recommended by one of the readers which is really good and tailor made for CBSE is http://englishportal12.blogspot.in/?view=mosaic 

Adrienne Rich's "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers", depicts a woman trapped within the cultural constraints and responsibilities of married life.

In the first stanza, Aunt Jennifer’s situation and character is contrasted with her artistic creation that portrays her aspiration. The tapestry on which she has knitted tigers are very symbolic of what she wants to be in life - fearless, assertive, noble and powerful like the tiger as expressed in the words "They pace in sleek chivalric certainty". The word 'certainty' could portray the self-assuredness of the tiger or the confident bearing of the tiger as it is fearless of life.The tigers depicted as prancing across the screen bring to mind a being that is confident, self-assured and happy; all things that Aunt Jennifer is not. The use of colours implies that Aunt Jennifer's tigers and their land are more vital and enjoy a sense of freedom far greater than her. Yellow (bright topaz) connotes the sun and fierce energy, while green reminds one of spring and rebirth.

In the second stanza, Aunt Jennifer's present state is depicted. Her fingers are "fluttering through her wool" showing both physical and mental weakness. She finds it difficult to pull the needle. "The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand" reminds us that her marriage responsibilities weigh her down which makes her unable to realize her full potential as a woman in a male-dominated society. She escapes from her difficult situation through art i.e. through knitting.

The final stanza contains imagery that reflects back on the first two stanzas. The reference of the hands symbolizes Aunt Jennifer as a whole. Though her death would free her from her present miserable state, her hands will remain terrified with the wedding ring which binds her to her ordeals that took complete control of her. The only sign of her freedom from her present life is the art work which she escapes into by depicting the prancing, proud and unafraid tigers which is what she really wants to be and which she attains through her imagination.




.

If you think this explanation has helped you, kindly donate money to the orphanage for girls that my friend runs. You can know about it at https://sites.google.com/site/annaineomianbuillam/

50 comments:

Elessar Telcontar said...

aww man thnx a lot... our english teacher sux nd she cant even frame one decent grammatically correct sentence... phew

Abe Pat said...

thanks for the comment

Parimala said...

thanx a lot!!! this makes lot of sense........ unlike wat our english teacher did try to explain.......

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch.... This makes so much more sense!!!

Hanna said...

Enlightenened!!!!! Definately!!!!
Thanxxx..........

Abe Pat said...

thanks for all the praise. i'm glad the blog was a great help.

harjinderpal singh said...

sir

with due respect, i thank you very much for providing explanation for almost all the poems in cbse xii syllabus. All the poem have been well explained. i'd b mcuh if you could please write explanations for a thing of beauty and keeping quiet also

harjinderpalsingh said...

sir

with due respect, i thank you very much for explaining the poems in cbse xii syllabus so well. i'd b mcuh obliged if you could please write explanations for 'A Thing of Beauty and 'Keeping Quiet' also.

Thanks again.

Abe Pat said...

i'm not teaching in schools anymore n i lost the notes i had for these poems long back.

Anonymous said...

thank you ever so much! :) its hard to get with poems before exams... you've done us all a great favor so thanks again :)

ishita said...

thanks a lot. this has finally made me appriciate rich's work. i'd like to know what literary device has been used in "her terrified hands". thank u

Abe Pat said...

Her hands aren't really terrified but she is terrified. the literary device used is transfered epithet where the emotion/feeling of a person is transferred on to another object.

Anonymous said...

thank u so much sir....
really well explained....

Anonymous said...

sir with all due respect i'd like to make a Correction in one of our your comments where you wrote that the figure of speech used in "terrified hands" is transferred epithet...it is actually synec doche(Greek word used for representing a body as a whole by a part of it )... thank you sir for the wonderful sumarry...

prets said...

thanks a ton.... this really helped ... hope i will be able to write better in d exams .. i cudn't do this poem in class as i was absent .... thank u very much sir ...
preeti

Abe Pat said...

thanks whoever you are for pointing out the error. The figure of speech used in "terrified hands" is indeed synechdoche. sorry for the wrong information.

文清 said...

sir, could you explain the word "screen" on first stanza for me ? i don't know exactly what it refers to. thnx

文清 said...

hi~i've got another question. in the first stanza last line, they pace in sleek chivalric certainty.
what does certainty refer to?
sorry i have to ask stupid questions. i don't want to just get the main idea of the poem, i want to know every single word.

Abe Pat said...

I guess screen refers to a curtain or the usual screen that one uses in one's house. I think the word 'certainty' portrays the self-assuredness of the tiger or the confident bearing of the tiger as it is fearless of life. I'm not sure if this makes sense. I guess you can give other interpretations as well. That's what poetry is all about.

文清 said...

i appreciate your explaining the words for me!!

jiten said...

Thank you!
Great help to us
We appreciate you work and knowledge .

neha said...

thank a lot!

ud die laughing at what our teacher taught us..
thank you :)

Athul said...

thanks sir ....it was of great help to me...........

parz said...

thank you sooo much...may god bless you...you made it much more easier

Anonymous said...

thank you sooo much...may god bless you...you made it much more easier

Vivek said...

What does "they do not fear the man under the tree" mean?

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your help sir, especially for this poem since it is so abstract.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

thank u so much sir... it made a lot of sense..:)

Anonymous said...

Sir, ur explanations helped a lot!!!!
thank you so much..
Regards
Raunak

tanuja said...

thanks a lot...tommorowi've got xam and i finally got this tiger...

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this blog. This is the kind of lucid explanation the CBSE exam looks for. No cackle on focused answering. Much appreciated.

shreyans jain said...

sir thanx it helped me alot in end time thank u :-@

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot sir! This explanation proved to be very helpful...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Why has the poet referred to Aunt Jennifer only as Aunt in the end?
This is a question from BBC worksheet. Thank you for your help.

dyNamite vishnu said...

Thanksss a lot sir......I'm from Bahrain....we got a new English teacher hu cam from tamil nadu.........now we ended up learning Tamil...

Anonymous said...

thanks a ton...it was a great help...:-)
Thanxxxxxxx...:-)

Bodhisatya Chouli said...

Thanxx a lot for such a easy but meaningful description....nothing could be better than this just before the exam day...nd u dont know anything the chapter...

Anonymous said...

I think bright topaz denizens literally refers to 'yellow animal' rather than the sun.

Anu said...

thank you very much, sir.
I always had some diffiulties in this poem. Now I am fine..

Anonymous said...

Thank You Sir
Regards

Anonymous said...

Thanks!!!(Y)

kuldeep singh kaira said...

Thanks a lot sir...

somia said...

Thank you sir !

Kuldeep singh kaira said...

revising this last time because english exam is today only.....



Thanks sir

shimmeichon zimik said...

1 doubt....... Is it embroidery or knitting!??? Because we use we use needle for embroidery and a knitting stick for knitting!!!

Anonymous said...

http://englishportal12.blogspot.in/2013/04/aunt-jennifers-tigers-poem-glossary.html

go ahead and watch it...
at least you should give them some credits...!!!

Anonymous said...

sir undoubtedly you have explained the poem in a very lucid language. thax a lot

Anonymous said...

thnks for mkng it mch easier.......relyy

Sridevi Selvaa said...

http://englishportal12.blogspot.in/?view=mosaic
i cant enter. i need a permission to enter. can u tell me the procedure to enter into the site.