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"Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" is a poem by the poet Adrienne Rich. The poem consists of three stanzas, which contain four lines each. The poem is a rhyming poem and the rhyme scheme is AABB, CCDD, and EEFF. This is formal verse and not a free verse poem.
In the first stanza, the poet conveys the image of Aunt Jennifer's vibrant colored tigers living in a rich green landscape. These tigers, to the poet, are living life with a regalness and majesty as one would expect of tigers in the wild. What is jarring in this first stanza is the third line:
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
The tone of the poem changes in this third line of stanza number one. This line foreshadows the message of the poem and the underlying source of pain in Aunt Jennifer's life. The issue of this poem is Aunt Jennifer's dealings with and relationships with men.
This is further revealed in the second stanza of the poem. Aunt Jennifer is knitting a panel that portrays these powerful and beautiful tigers. However, the pains and burdens of her life are revealed in the line that states that her fingers
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
This line alludes to the fact of hardship and trouble in her life. It indicates that her labor in life has been tiring and hurtful and that her less-than-perfect marriage to an overbearing and demanding and maybe even demeaning husband are taking their toll on her. The poet conveys that the wedding band on Aunt Jennifer's finger is a burdensome weight - this hints that her husband is making her life miserable, as the ring is defined as a "massive weight."
In the final stanza of the poem, there is no doubt about Aunt Jennifer's terrible marriage and possibly other trouble with other men. The poet speaks of Aunt Jennifer's "terrified hands." This denotes fear, trembling, worry, and consternation in her unhappy life. Life circumstances and situations have ravished and defeated Aunt Jennifer. However, through some of this, and after her death, her tigers (that inhabit the panel that she made) will continue their bold and proud ways, oblivious to the hurt and turmoil of her life.
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