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AUNT JENNIFER’S TIGERS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adrienne Cecile Rich (1929 – 2012), American poet, essayist and feminist. One of the most widely read and influenced poets of the second half of the 20th century. She talks about a woman’s experiences in her married life. She has attempted to discover the inner thoughts and feelings of a woman who lives under men’s domination.

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THEME
The poem deals with the wretched condition of married women across the globe. Aunt Jennifer is a symbol of all married women trapped in the oppressive hands of a patriarchal society.

SUMMARY

  • The poet is a feminist and she addresses the difficulties of a married woman.
  • She spends a good amount of time in embroidering panel of tigers prancing across the screen.
  • The tigers are fearless creatures pacing elegantly and majestically. They symbolize the spirit of freedom. Aunt is a victim of male chauvinism (male domination).
  • Aunt Jennifer is so depressed and scared that she finds it hard to pull the needle.
  • The “weight of Uncle’s wedding band” shows how much she is being abused and marginalised. It means aunt Jennifer must work hard to satisfy his wish.
  • She spends her life in fear but the brave tigers on the panel are embroidered to express her hidden yearning for a life of independence and confidence.
  • Even her death does not end the problem and torture which a married woman experiences.

SOLVED QUESTIONS (NCERT)

Q. 1. How do ‘denizens’ and ‘chivalric’ add to our understanding of the tiger’s attitudes?

Ans. The word ‘denizens’ means they are proud of their home, feel protected there, and have an attached sense of belonging to it.
The word ‘chivalric’ indicates that like knights they have a noble and dignified role.

Q. 2. Why do you think Aunt Jennifer’s hands are ‘fluttering through her wool’ in the second stanza? Why is she finding the needle so hard to pull?
Ans. Her hands are fluttering most likely because she’s scared of her husband, who might come anytime and scold her for sitting idle and wasting her time on the embroidery. She finds the needle too hard to pull since her fingers are tired of working endlessly in her life.

Q. 3. What is suggested by the image ‘massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’?
Ans. ‘Massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’ symbolically indicates that the bindings and obligations of her marriage are so intense that they have put a lot of burden and stress on her.

Q.4. Why has Aunt Jennifer made ‘prancing, proud and unafraid’ tigers?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer has tried to express herself through her art. She has created proud, prancing, unafraid tigers on her panel because she wants herself to be like her tigers, confident and have the freedom to live her life in her own way.

Q. 5. What are the ‘ordeals’ Aunt Jennifer is surrounded by, why is it significant that the poet uses the word ‘ringed’? What are the meanings of the word ‘ringed’ in the poem?

Ans. The ‘ordeals’ are: Obeying her husband’s orders, Fear of men, Giving in to his dominance and fulfilling his commands. ‘Ringed’ indicates entrapment. As the ring encircles the finger, similarly, her husband has encircled her in his clutches. Her body and soul are both trapped, struggling for freedom and fearlessness.

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Q. 6. Why do you think Aunt Jennifer created animals that are so different from her own character? What might the poet be suggesting, through this difference?
Ans. I think the deep yearning for independence and fearlessness of aunt Jennifer came out through her imagination.
This is the time when she is with herself, and when she expresses her innermost thoughts, her medium of expression here is the embroidery.
By this difference, the poet might be suggesting that the lady is not what she is. Her circumstances have made her so, but she still has a desire to live her life with dignity and pride.

Q7. Interpret the symbols found in this poem.
Ans.

● ‘denizens of a world of green’ means inhabitants of the forest.

● ‘massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’ means the burden of marital obligations.

● ‘Sits heavily upon Aunt’ means ‘has laid a lot of stress on her’.

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● ‘ringed with ordeals’ means to get entrapped in hardships and sufferings.

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SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS

1. What are the characteristics of the tiger that lend contrast to the Aunt?

Ans. The Tigers are fearless, chivalric and they are confident. They enjoy their freedom. On the other hand, Aunt Jennifer is oppressed and a victim of a male-dominated society. The Tigers are fearless and are not afraid of men.

2. What is the theme of the poem?

Ans. The poet subtly brings out the contrast between the wonderful freedom of the work of art created by Aunt Jennifer and the constraints of her married personal life. The Aunt has been subjected to suppression at the hands of her dominating husband and it is only in the embroidery that she is free and gives expression to her creativity.

3. What does Aunt Jennifer’s creation of the tigers symbolize?

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Ans. The tigers symbolize Aunt Jennifer’s desires. She expresses herself through the creation of her tigers whom she embroiders with a needle for a panel. The Tigers are free and symbolize Jennifer’s own longing to be free and powerful.

4. Why do you think Aunt Jennifer’s hands are ‘fluttering through her wool’ in the second stanza? Why is she finding the needle so hard to pull?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer’s hands are fluttering because they are a reflection of her dominated and suppressed spirit. She is physically and emotionally drained and finds it hard to pull the needle. Her hands are heavy with the weight of the wedding ring which symbolizes the hardships and difficulties of her life

5. What is suggested by the image ‘massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’?

Ans. The image suggests that not only is Aunt bowed down by the emotional and physical pressures of her married life but she is also suppressed by the weight of the wedding band meaning that male-dominated society has put her under a lot of stress and has curbed her freedom and happiness.

6. What are the ‘ordeals’ Aunt Jennifer is surrounded by? Why is it significant that the poet uses the word ‘ringed’? What are the meanings of the word `ringed’ in the poem?

Ans. The ‘ordeals’ that surround Aunt Jennifer are the hardships and the oppression in a male-dominated society. The poet uses the word ‘ringed’ to signify that after her death also, Aunt Jennifer’s hands will still be affected by the dominance of a male, perhaps her husband. While the Tigers will be free, she would never be free; her only hope for freedom is through her artistic creation or the Tigers on the screen. Through them she I can depict the courage and confidence that she lacked in her own life.

7. What does the poetess suggest by saying that the tigers that she has embroidered will forever go on prancing proudly?

Ans. When Aunt Jennifer is no more, her tigers will continue to live on the panel. A work of art will continue to be an expression of Aunt Jennifer’s creativity and the Tigers will forever be seen, prancing about, fearless and free-spirited.

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