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CBSE Class 12 Poem explanation – Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers
-Adrienne Rich
• 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.

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.

• 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 similie).
• 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.



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.


• 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.

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.


• 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.

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

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