Adrienne Rich’s poem “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers” is a poem of conflict. The conflict is what takes place within Aunt Jennifer; the desire to break away from the society in which she lives. The poem is compelling because of the struggle between what Jennifer wishes her life to be and what it really is. The narrator engages the reader with the description: “tigers prance across a screen,” and sets this image against the image of Aunt Jennifer’s fingers with “the massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band.”
This is a direct correlation between rebellion and repression, between the individual and the social, between the personal and the political. This is also the beginning of Rich’s life- long theme of feminism. This poem cries out for a resolution; for Aunt Jennifer to throw off the repression of social and political chains which held women in their homes and tied to husbands they no longer wished to serve.
“Aunt Jennifer's Tigers,” which appeared in Rich's first collection of poems, is typical of her early work, illustrating the modest poetic ambitions for which she was praised by Auden."
"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 fingers 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."