Who is speaking in “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers”? How is the tone different from “The Story of an Hour”? How is it different or similar to “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers”? Compare the setting of “The Story of an Hour” to “A Certain Lady.” Where is “The Story of an Hour” taking place? Where is “A Certain Lady” taking place? Do these different settings affect the tone of the speaker? Why or Why not?

These three works all center around a woman's reaction to the sense of restriction and even oppression she feels in her relationship with her husband. The tone varies in each, from sad and angry in “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers,” to lightly sad and descriptive and then hopeful in “The Story of an Hour,” to an alternation between cheerful and sad with a bit of wickedness in “A Certain Lady.”

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These three works, “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “A Certain Lady,” all connect through the theme of a woman's sense of restriction, even oppression, at the hands of her husband. Let's look at each of these in turn so that you can better compare the works and answer your questions.

In “Aunt Jennifer's Tigers,” we have a third-person narrator, someone who seems to be close to Aunt Jennifer; someone who knows her well and can understand her situation from the inside. The poem's tone is rather heavy, even sad, but there is an undertone of anger to it as well. Aunt Jennifer's ring, the narrator says, weighs heavily on her hand, symbolizing the weight of her marriage. We never find out exactly what Uncle does to Aunt Jennifer, but her hands are “terrified,” and she is “mastered by” her ordeals. Only her needlework is left, depicting the tigers that she longed to be.

“The Story of an Hour” carries a slightly lighter tone, more descriptive and without the underlying anger. The third-person narrator, who seems unconnected with the Mallards, describes Mrs. Mallard as shocked by the reported death of her husband. Mrs. Mallard retreats to her room and settles into a “comfortable, roomy armchair” near an open window. She looks out, appreciating the scene before her eyes, and she feels something coming toward her, a feeling she cannot at first identify. Then she realizes that she is free. She can live for herself now. The tone of the story soars up into hopefulness. Mrs. Mallard had sometimes loved her husband, and apparently, he had never treated her cruelly, but the weight and demands of their relationship were now gone. Mrs. Mallard, however, experiences an even greater shock at the end of the story when her husband (who has not died at all) walks through the door. As her much-anticipated freedom flies away, she falls to the floor, dead of a weak heart.

Dorothy Parker's poem “A Certain Lady” takes place in an unspecified setting, although we can imagine, perhaps, a family home with a couple sitting around a breakfast table. The wife, who is the speaker in the poem, alternates her tone as she alternates her description of what her husband wants from her (her smile, her laugh, her caresses, her cheerfulness, her interest, her kisses) and what she is feeling inside. She acts her role perfectly, giving her husband all that he desires in a lighthearted, bright manner (and tone). But he cannot see “the thousand little deaths [her] heart has died.” This woman is not happy. Her heart breaks when her husband acts like he loves her but then leaves at night when he goes out “in search of novelty.” Her tone turns sad as she thinks of it and then rather sly, even wicked, at the end of the poem when she tells him that he will never know what happens while he is away, suggesting to the audience that she is searching for novelties of her own.

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