Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

by Adrienne Rich

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What are some similarities and differences in women's liberation between the poem "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" and the book The Scarlet Letter?

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Since Penelope weaved a shroud for her lost Odysseus, sewing and weaving have become symbols of domestic strength, solidarity, and tradition.  In "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," Jennifer's tigers on the panel "pace in sleek chivalric certainty," symbolic of her female strength and independence.

So too it is with Hester Prynne's scarlet letter "A."  First a symbol of "Adultery," it becomes a kind of "anarchy," a willful independence from an unjust society.  Hester, too, sews for the town.  She weaves shrouds and bridal gowns.

So, both Jennifer and Hester, by taking pride in their domestic vocation, rebel against an unjust marriage (Jennifer) and society (Hester).  Their handiwork, then, become symbols of their quiet strength.

Enotes says it best:

Hester...begins to find the letter liberating in a way; through her actions, her community involvement, and the inevitable changes that her society undergoes, Hester’s A is a badge of honor. When she’s offered the chance to remove it, she refuses, seeing the letter as an integral part of what she has become thanks to her own effort. Hester’s identity grows independently of the scarlet letter, and it becomes an extension of her rather than the other way around.

We know these women, even after death, "Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid."

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