This poem 'Aunt Jennifer's Tiger' , is a very beautiful poem , showcasing the situation of women in patriarchal society, and in general what she faces in marriage as an institution, and what she goes everyday in order to make it work. Now Aunt is old, and going through lines one can say Aunt is very meek and docile lady and she has been subjugated by Uncle, but as it is said, Imagination is like wild horses, so with the help of embroidery she is trying to be everything she aspires to be.
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.
The entire poem is written in three verses.
All are Quatrains.
Rhyme scheme- aabbccddee or we can say Couplets are rhyming.
Mixed Iambic meters
Alliterations and internal rhymes can also be seen.
Now, let's try to focus on what our poem means line by line.
In the first line itself a scene can be imagined where someone is doing some kind of artistic work..where a creature is being made up of bright topaz colour with the green background.
In second line it is said they don't fear it means the tiger that is made on the embroidery is not fearing from men behind the tree. Since tiger is a wild animal and they suffer danger from human being but still they are fearless. Unlike Aunt who is really fearful of her husband.
In third line the poetess is talking about tiger’s movement, their pace which is sleek and fearless in a very chivalrous way…now the matter is in Aunt Jennifer's imagination, this tiger is fearless. But she is definitely not
Her hands are shaking like just making an animal is also act of disobeying her husband which is sign that the aunt is so much fearful from her own husband.
Ivory needle is a commodity here. Her hands are shaking so much that she is unable to hold her needle firmly with confidence.
In her marriage with Uncle she is not suppose to disobey him and the wedding band is like handcuffs to her..it weigh her hand down…it's too heavy for her..she cannot bear the pain of it. This certainly means that she is living her unhappy married life.
And this ring will still remains in hand when she will be dead. After her death also she cannot come out of everything..she will take it with herself.
In this lines her wedding band is now compared with the rings in circus where animal jump through those rings when their ringmaster asks them to do so, and so Aunt Jennifer she was with someone who had manipulative behaviour towards her. Like the ringmaster on his animals
But the tiger that she made will go unafraid after her death too.
So in these lines we have seen the mental state of women who is living her unhappy married life. When we see the writer of this poem Adrienne Rich she has also faced this problem in her own life, she was a homosexual lady but she still was living with her husband and also bored their three children. Now applying this to her written Poems most of scholars think that this is her own story.