Sunday, January 14, 2018

Aunt Jennifer's Tigers is a beautiful poem by the American poet Adrienne Rich depicting a faithful portrait of a woman's life. She has been given a name. She is an artist. She can make beautiful artistic canvas. But above all here in this poem her sole identity has become of a woman's. None could emulate that marital identity.

Rich in this poem has raised an important issue of woman's position in society. We notice curiously that Aunt Jennifer, in her life, is bearing the `massive weight' of marriage, i.e. the ring. Even after her death, when the ring will not be there, the mark of the ring, on her finger will once again proclaim "uncle's wedding band". That means after her death she will also bear the same identity, as she is bearing now in a patriarchal society. That she is a married woman.

Rich has also artfully relates social and individual expectations in this poem. We see Jennifer is an aunt. She is a wife of a certain uncle who we do not know. But she could be given another name. In our society, according to the observations of Rich, it is not so easy; particularly for a married woman. the poet might have had her own experience in this respect. Society's expectations are always higher than these of an individual woman's.

She has used animal imagery. Tigers are symbols of power and vigour. Unfortunately the artistic creator of these tigers does not find any freedom in this society. As the society is essentially patriarchal, it is not ready to give place to woman's individual freedom. On the other hand if we compare Ted Hughes’ Jaguar, we shall see that through this animal imagery Hughes can dream of a rebellion. And he is able to do this since the patriarchal society permits him. Here lies the conflict between imagination and impulse of freedom and the reality in our society.

We see that the confinement of a woman in the society is a conventional thing. Rich does not clearly announce and say against this condition. Through the dutiful life style and passivity of Aunt Jennifer the poet silently indicates the imbalance of social stance of man and woman. And this helps us more to observe or at least rethink about our still patriarchal society.

Aunt Jennifer's Tigers


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