Adrienne Rich's "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" "Write a poetry response outlining the language and imagery of the text"

Essay by ChristianneHigh School, 10th gradeA, January 2003

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"Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" is a vexing poem, which centres on desires, and the depressingly harsh realities of Aunt Jennifer's existence, using sharp contrasts between the tigers that she sews, and herself. The tigers that she stitches appear to be everything that she's not- bold and valiant, not fearing anyone. Their actions are smooth, uninhibited and robust. Aunt Jennifer, on the other hand, has great trouble even making the tiger adorned screen because her movements are so weak and bumbling. She is completely unlike these animals and we are given the impression by the speaker of the poem that Aunt Jennifer desires to be like them. The narrator infers indirectly that she makes a screen with the tigers on it, to fulfil her desires of being fearless, but because she is being suffocated presumably by her marriage, which suppresses Aunt Jennifer, even in her demise, she can never act out her wish.

Consequently, the unhappy and terrified Aunt Jennifer can only show any signs of power and strength through her tigers, and her dreams of being formidable are never lived out, because she dies, still a haunted woman.

This tightly- structured piece of writing has a very neat sound and appearance, typical of an 18th Century poem. Each verse has four lines, and every second line rhymes with the previous one. The poem is divided into two sections, two different situations, being the tigers that feature on the screen that Jennifer is making, and the other being of the person the speaker of the poem refers to as 'Aunt' and her overwhelming weaknesses and troubles. In the last verse, however, the two scenes come together, revealing that after Aunt Jennifer's death, the tigers will live on, and her desires hadn't died when she did. The use of words in...