Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers Summary by Adrienne Rich

Desire to be Free

The poem is an expression of a deep-seated desire to be free and unrestricted. The protagonist is a woman who feels suffocated in an abusive marriage and voices her grief through her threadwork.

She weaves fear and fearsome tigers on cloth as a representation of her desire for roaring independence. The art of these figures gives a vent and escape to her buried yearning which would otherwise stay buried till she gets to her grave.

Through the tigers, she can outlive the prison of her marriage. Jennifer is an old married woman who is an aunt to the writer. She likes to make crystalline tigers that are brave, free and indomitable.

They run around and enjoy their green arena i.e. the forest without any stoppages or inhibitions. They are not daunted by men or hunters and roam with authority and grace like true kings of the forest.

Jennifer is Not Free

On the other hand, Jennifer is timid and meek. She has surrendered to a life of submission to her husband. She is living in a marriage of convenience and fear. She is unable to express her inner thoughts and is wary of her husband who does not approve of her artistic pursuits.

Compared to her tigers, she burdened and anchored by her reality as a married woman and fearful individual. She also seemed to be resigned to her circumstances and does not see any escape other than the sweet release of death, her final attempt at independence.

Until then she would be enslaved by her fears and inhibitions However, her art and her tigers will continue to be free and rule their place with certainty. They will keep running with the free wind in their hair. Her art will live on through the majesty and brave defiance of her crystalline tigers.

Final Words

Overall, the poem is a feministic critique of a patriarchal society where marriages are dominated by husbands. Thus, it has political and ideological arguments expressed through the tale of an old and alone woman caught in a loveless and oppressive relationship.