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Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers - CBSE NCERT Class XII English Poem - Explanation Question Answers Summary

CBSE NCERT Class XII English Poem - Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers



Check out for CBSE NCERT Class XII English Poem - Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers, Question Answers and New Words. Aunt Jennifer’s tigers is a poem by Adrienne Rich illustrating her feminist concerns. In the male dominant world, a woman of her time was only supposed to be a dutiful homemaker. This poem through the world of Aunty Jennifer, tells us about her inner desire to free herself from the clutches of abusive marriage and patriarchal society.

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Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers Summary

The poet expresses the inner feelings of a woman - Aunt Jennifer. The aunt is embroidering a motif comprising of energetic, fearless tigers moving freely around the bright greenery.
She is living a life of submissiveness to her husband’s command. Her acts are dominated by him and she fears him constantly. This pattern of the free and fearless tigers reflects her inner desire to live a free and fearless life. The tigers are graceful, elegant and bright.
Aunt Jennifer’s fingers tremble as she embroiders. She is old but still fears her husband. She does not enjoy the freedom to do anything as per her wish. She is scared doing the embroidery too and fears his wrath. Since the day she got married, she has been fulfilling the demands of her husband. The wedding ring on her hand is a constant reminder that she belongs to her husband. The burden of the demanding marriage has exhausted her. The torment will not end until her death.
Even after her death, the ring will remain on her hand and she will never be free. On the other hand, the tigers that she is embroidering will continue to move around freely forever. Her desire of freedom and fearlessness will live on through her tigers.

 

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ABOUT THE POET

  • 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 tried to explore the inner feelings of a woman who is living under the dominance of men.

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.

EXPLANATION

  • The poet is talking about a lady whom she addresses as aunt, Jennifer.
  • She is embroidering a piece of cloth. It could be a table cloth or a wall hanging.
  • The pattern shows tigers who are moving and jumping around all over the fabric.
  • They are bright yellow in colour like the colour of the topaz stone (use of metaphor).
  • The dense green forest background is their home.
  • They are the proud and fearless citizens of the forest.
  • Here is a contrast between Aunt Jennifer and her tigers. The tigers are fearless but this lady, who is embroidering them is not so.
  • The tigers look elegant, shining and full of the gentleman’s grace.

The poet is describing a lady whom she addresses as Aunt Jennifer. She says that Aunt Jennifer is doing embroidery on a piece of cloth which could be a table cloth or a wall hanging. She has designed it with beautiful tigers which are running fearlessly in the green forest. She has described their beauty by comparing them with a precious yellow stone known as topaz. She says that they appear bright yellow in the green backdrop of the forest. They are fearless and they are not affected by the presence of men. Here we can sense the contrast of behavior between the tigers and aunt, though the tigers designed by her are fearless but she herself is afraid of her husband. Further, the poet says that the tigers are proud and fearless citizens of the forests. They are very shiny and elegant.

 

Literary Devices

Rhyme scheme: aabb

Anaphora: use of same word in two consecutive lines (they do not … and they pace in…)

Metaphor: Use of topaz to describe the yellow color of tigers (Bright topaz)


 

SECOND STANZA
Aunt Jennifer’s fingers 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.

EXPLANATION

  • The lady’s fingers are trembling with the fear of her husband.
  • She is pursuing her hobby in her free time but probably, she is still afraid of her husband who could scold her.
  • Her fingers are so tired of working endlessly all her life
  • The needle is also heavy for her to pull out of the cloth.
  • The words ‘uncle’s wedding band’ as the band was bought by her husband, it is his till today.
  • The lady is dependent on her husband .
  • She is still burdened by the weight of the ring. ‘weight’ means the encirclement or trapping that has fallen upon her by getting married to him, she has been burdened by the obligations of married life, has become the man’s property.
  • She has been living a demanding life due to which she has worn out in her old age.

Here the poet describes the fear of Aunt Jennifer towards her husband. She says that while she is doing embroidery, her fingers are quivering (shaking) with fear of her husband.  Her husband doesn’t approve of her hobby of embroidery. Therefore, she trembles while she is embroidering the piece of cloth. It has become difficult for her to pull her needle up and down. Then she describes the wedding ring which was given by uncle to Aunt Jennifer on their wedding day. She says that it is a kind of burden for her to wear this ring. She has been tortured by her husband so much that the wedding ring which could have been a beautiful gift for her seems like a burden to her. She has faced so many difficulties in her married life that the little ring is described as a heavy band on her trembling fingers. This means that the ring is associated with some bad experiences in the form of torture she has faced because of her husband’s dominating behaviour.

 

Literary device:

Rhyme scheme: aabb

Alliteration: ‘f’ sound is repeated in finger fluttering


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.

EXPLANATION

  • Her wish to live a free, fearless life is indicated by her choice of design – tigers.
  • It shows her innermost desire of being strong, fearless which has been overpowered by her husband.
  • Probably, her ordeal will end upon her death.
  • Her frightened, shaking fingers will be put to rest.
  • But still, even after death, the ring shall remain on her hand, i.e. her husband’s rule over her is not yet over!
  • After her death, her desire of freedom and fearlessness shall remain alive in these tigers which she has embroidered.

The poet says that one can easily sense aunt’s desire for freedom and fearlessness through her design of tigers. Further she says that it is not possible for aunt to achieve this freedom during her lifetime. She will attain it only after her death but here also the irony of her life is that still, she will be tied up with shackles in the form of her husband’s wedding ring. The ring was the sole proof of the tortures which she had faced from her husband. On the other hand, there are the tigers designed by Aunt Jennifer which will always depict her desire of living a fearless life by jumping proudly and bravely on the piece of cloth.

 

Literary devices

Rhyme scheme: aabb

alliteration: ‘p’ is repeated in prancing proud


 

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New words
Prance :  walk or move around with high springy steps.
Topaz : a bright yellow coloured stone.
Denizens :  here, an animal that lives or is found in a particular place.
Sleek : elegant.
Chivalric : being courteous esp. to women, an act of a gentleman.
Ordeals: extremely severe tests or experiences.
Prancing : to move around proudly.
Fluttering : to move in quick, irregular motions as if being agitated.

Question and Answers


How do ‘denizens’ and ‘chivalric’ add to our understanding of the tiger’s attitudes?
The word ‘denizens’ means that they are proud of their home, they feel safe there and have a feeling of belonging attached to it.
The word ‘chivalric’ shows that they have a majestic and worthy position like knights.
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?
Her hands are fluttering probably because she is scared of her husband who could come anytime and scold her for sitting idle and wasting her time doing embroidery. She finds the needle so hard to pull because her fingers are tired of working endlessly all through her life.
What is suggested by the image ‘massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’?
‘Massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’ suggest symbolically, that the bindings and obligations of her marriage are so much that they have put a lot of burden and stress on her.
Of what or of whom is Aunt Jennifer terrified with in the third stanza?
She is terrified of her husband.
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?
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.

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?

  • I think that aunt Jennifer’s intense desire for freedom and fearlessness came out through her creativity.
  • This is the time when she is with herself, and then, her innermost feelings are expressed, here her medium of expression is the embroidery.
  • Through this difference it is shown that the lady is not what she is. Her circumstances have made her so but even she has a desire to live life with respect and pride.

Interpret the symbols found in this poem.

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

Do you sympathize with Aunt Jennifer. What is the attitude of the speaker towards Aunt Jennifer?
Yes, I sympathize with Aunt Jennifer. The speaker is also sympathetic towards her and hates dominating men.

 

 

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