Poem

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 finger 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.



 

Summary

This poem is all about women's rights. Adrienne was a heavy women's activist, and this poem is one of her works that display this. "Aunt Jennifer" represents all women that have been oppressed, and in the poem, it shows how they all have to make sacrifices. The time when this poem was released was a peak for this struggle, which is when this poem was published (1951). 


 

Structure

This poem consists of:

  • Three Stanzas
    • Four lines per stanza
    • Two rhyming couplets per stanza


Analysis

First Stanza

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.

The first stanza starts with an introduction to the Tigers that aunt is busy embroidering. The description of the tigers is so heavy ("prance across a screen") that they are described as almost as if they were alive.

Second Stanza

Aunt Jennifer's finger 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.

We are now submerged into how the Tigers are being created. Line 5 says how her hand is "fluttering" through the wool. This then brings us to the next part of the stanza where it is said that she is having trouble pulling the needle - this could either be because of her hand or because of the fabric. However, in the next line, the poet writes "The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand". Now the wedding band here is clearly a wedding ring, but it has two meanings:

  1. The literal weight of the ring is making it hard for Aunt to do what she's got to do.
  2. The ring, symbolising their marriage, is making it difficult.

It should also be noted that the band is known as Uncle's wedding band, not Aunt Jennifer's ring. This here brings the issue of women's rights into the picture. By using "Uncle" for possession, it brings a connotation that the marriage is shifted towards the man and that Aunt Jennifer is in fact property of him.  

Third Stanza

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.

There is a drastic change of tone here. This stanza talks about how Aunt is still going to be terrified after her death because of how she was mastered by the ordeals that she experienced. This here completely points to her marriage scarring her for life and this mastery even flowing into the realms of death. It talks about how her husband was/is her master - indicating again a lack of human rights in society.

The poem then ends with the last two lines changing the tone yet again. The poet says that the tigers will continue to prance proud and unafraid. This shows leads us into Adrienne's life where she is saying that the things that she has created and the legacy that she has left behind will continue to live on, forever. 

 


 

 

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