Explain this line: "The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand." Aunt Jennifer's actual wedding band, not her husband's...that she was talking about how the marriage made her feel trapped. And that the ring was just another example of the hold her husband has on her. Not that it's her dead husband's ring. Am I right?

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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.

Aunt Jennifer is attempting to create a work of art that contrasts at every point with the grim reality of her married life. The embroidered tigers are chivalric, certain, proud, and unafraid, whereas Aunt Jennifer is terrified and mastered by her ordeals.

The massive weight of the ring symbolizes the way in which Aunt Jennifer's marriage to a man who frightens her weighs her down and almost prevents her from being creative. The fact that the ring is called "Uncle's wedding band" signifies that, although he gave the ring to her when they were married, it remains his ring. He used it to take possession of her. It is his because she is his.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that we use the possessive form in cases when we do not actually intend to signify possession. When one refers to "their" wife or "their" mother, it is obvious that they are saying these women have specific relationships with them. They are probably not claiming ownership, as in the case of saying "their" car. What Rich subtly does here shows the man's claim to ownership of the woman he married not by saying that she is his (which might have a poetic and romantic connotation) but by saying that the ring with which he claimed her remains his.

Feminist thinkers sometimes object to the symbolism of the engagement wedding ring as a sign of ownership, like the ring a farmer puts through the nose of an animal. This is certainly the case with Aunt Jennifer. She suffers greatly under the dominance of her husband. It is a remarkable feat on Rich's part to convey the suffocating and sinister character of this man in a twelve-line poem, without saying a single thing directly about him.

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I think you're on the right track here. I think her uncle, her aunt's husband, is still very much alive. His control is the reason Aunt Jennifer finds it hard to pull her needle through the fabric as she stitches tigers, symbols of power.

I think Rich intentionally crafts the phrase "Uncle's wedding band" to further the idea of the patriarchal hold over Aunt Jennifer. Aunt Jennifer's wedding band is not her own; instead, it is her husband's. Aunt Jennifer is his possession. And that is why the ring is "massive" and "sits heavily" upon her. The massive weight of this relationship which leaves Aunt Jennifer with "fluttering" hands is a burden to bear. She is not in a joyous union.

Aunt Jennifer is not like the free and bold tigers she stitches. She will never find a time when she "do[es] not fear the men beneath" the metaphorical trees in her own life. The narrator realizes that her uncle's hold over Aunt Jennifer will never allow her to experience peace. She believes that even in death, Aunt Jennifer will be "ringed with ordeals she was mastered by." The word "ring" is used here again, noting that the ring is her master. Thus, her husband is her master, and her lifelong marriage is an "ordeal."

Thus, I believe Aunt Jennifer's husband is still alive as she stitches the tigers. She must answer to him as her master. The ring functions as her very visible symbol of his domination, even as those same fingers create images of the power she longs for.

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A contrast is drawn throughout this poem between Aunt Jennifer herself and the tigers she is embroidering, which represent the spirit within Jennifer that cannot be "proud and unafraid" in life. Jennifer seems to be held back or burdened by something; she finds it difficult to pull her needle through her work. This seems to be an indication on a grander scheme of how difficult she finds it to express her true self.

There are various reasons for this, but certainly the symbolism of "Uncle's wedding band" is a central one. Probably, "Uncle's wedding band" does not mean that she is wearing the ring he wore in life—she is most likely wearing the ring he gave to her when they were married. Therefore, its "massive weight" does not come from the fact that it is literally a large or heavy ring; the weight of it, and what it represents, is metaphorical. It is a "band" around Jennifer, something which encircles her and holds her in. In the final stanza, this idea is emphasized in the statement that, even in death, her hands will remain "ringed with ordeals she was mastered by." For Jennifer, the ring does not represent a happy marriage, but rather is a symbol of cruel mastery by a husband who prevented her from living the "proud and unafraid" life her prancing tigers do.

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The wonder of this line, and this poem, is its ambiguity. By that I mean, Rich intentionally sets up the poem so it is open-ended—so readers don't know for sure which ring is meant. The emotional tone of the poem flips back and forth a bit as we decide one way or the other. Is the uncle placing a heavy hand on her, to stop her from sewing? Or is the ring a gift, meant with love, but still one that limits her as a person? What precisely are the "ordeals she was mastered by"? Is the uncle her master? Or just the heavy, heavy weight of life? We don't know for sure. We're just left with the vivid images of the hands, the rings, the tigers.

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