Compare the story "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" to "The Secret Lion."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most obvious comparisons you can make between these two excellent texts is through the way that symbolism is used. Both texts are heavily reliant on the use of symbols to convey their meaning, although the themes and meanings differ, ranging from the triumph of art over reality against the backdrop of oppressive marriage in the case of "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" to the move from childhood to the experience of adulthood in "The Secret Lion."

In "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," for example, one of the central symbols is that of the "massive weight of Uncle's wedding band" that inhibits the expression of her artistic talent as she sews. Note how this is made a governing symbol in the last stanza:

When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will be

Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.

The use of the adjective "ringed" is highly significant in this quote. The wedding ring becomes a symbol that describes perfectly the oppressive and restrictive nature of the male patriarchal institute of marriage, which is shown to exert such control on the speaker's Aunt.

In "The Secret Lion," symbols, and the different meanings attached to them that change as the boys grow up, are used to suggest how the move from innocence to adulthood and experience changes the way we view the world. For example, as young boys, the arroyo, or river, is a symbol of rebellion, as they are not allowed to go there and swim. Boys being boys, however, it becomes a place of massive excitement and of rebellion:

It was our river, though, our personal Mississippi, our friend from long back, and it was full of stories.

As the boys grow up, however, they realise that this river was actually not as impressive as their child-like eyes thought: it is nothing more than a small river polluted by sewage. This change in the symbolism of the river is used to chart the move from innocence to experience and the loss that occurs as we grow up as adults.

Both of these texts are therefore very heavily dependent on symbolism to convey their central message, and to understand the themes presented, it is vital to explore how the authors use symbolism.


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