Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers – Important Questions

Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich addresses the constraints of married life a woman experiences. The protagonist of the poem, Aunt Jennifer, represent women all over the world. She represents the kind of women who were caught under the oppressive hand of a patriarchal society. The poetess, Adrienne Rich through the simple lines of poem, delineates a woman’s struggles with expression and rebellion.

Important Questions with Answers

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

Aunt Jennifer’s finger 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.

  1. What is Aunt Jennifer doing with her wool? ivory needle?
    Aunt Jennifer creating beautiful images of the tigers with her wool.
  2. Why does she find it difficult to pull her ivory needle?
    She found it difficult to pull her ivory needle because she was so terrorized and tortured that she was unable to carry the weight of the wool.
  3. What does ‘wedding band’ stand for?
    The wedding band stands for the engagement ring as also the metal band that keeps her chained and curtails her freedom.
  4. Describe the irony in the third line.
    The irony in the third line The massive weight of uncle’s wedding band’ is that the responsibilities of marriage and oppression in a male dominated society which Aunt Jennifer experiences.

Q. Read the extract given below and answer the questions that follow.

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.”

  1. Who is the aunt mentioned here?
    The aunt mentioned here is Aunt Jennifer, the protagonist of Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Aunt ,Jennifer’s Tigers’. She is a woman going through unpleasant experiences in her married life.
  2. Why is she ‘ringed with ordeals’?
    She is ‘ringed with ordeals’ because marriage has brought with it a host of family responsibilities by which she is ‘ringed’ or surrounded. She feels so burdened by her marital constraints that they seem like an ordeal to her.
  3. What is the difference between her and the tigers?
    Aunt Jennifer is quite weak and submissive, whereas the tigers are strong, bold and powerful. She is bound by the constraints of her married life, while the tigers are free to move about in the green woods.
  4. What will be her position after death?
    Even after her death, she will carry the rings or marks of persecution on her hands. The tigers created by her will live a free and fearless life in the forest.

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

Ans. Aunt Jennifer has made those tigers to express her hidden suppressed feelings. Oppressed in a male dominated society, these are the qualities that Aunt Jennifer longs to have.

Q. How is Aunt Jennifer different from her tigers?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer is different from her tigers because she herself was a timid lady whereas her tigers were symbolic of bravery, courage and fearlessness. They stand for power, strength and confidence which she lacks in herself.

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

Ans. ‘Denizens’ means the occupants of a particular place and ‘Chivalric’ points to honour, bravery and fearlessness. The tigers occupy their territory after much struggle and are very their own terms possessive about it. They live on and fear none, as they regard themselves as superior in their domain.

Q. 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 fingers are fluttering and she is finding the needle hard to pull because she is weak and feels afraid. She is traumatized by the ordeals of her marital life and a male dominated society.

Q. What are the difficulties that Aunt Jennifer faced in her life?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer was a victim of oppression at the hands of the patriarchal society. She was subjugated by her husband and the wedding band lay heavy on her hand. She was so terrified that her hands fluttered even when she carried something so light as knitting needles and wool.

Q. What is suggested by the phrase, ‘massive weight of Uncle’s wedding band’?

Ans. ‘Massive weight of uncle’s wedding band’ refers to the responsibilities of marriage and oppression in a male dominated society which Aunt Jennifer experiences.

Q. What will happen when Aunt Jennifer is dead? Or What will happen to Aunt Jennifer’s tigers when she is dead?

Ans. The poet says that when Aunt Jennifer is dead her tigers will go on prancing, proud and fearless. This means that art endures beyond human life. It also shows that her longing for freedom from male domination will endure forever, even after she dies.

Q. For Aunt Jennifer, what do the tigers symbolise? Or Why does Aunt Jennifer create animals that are so different from her own character?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer is creating tigers, which are a symbol of strength, fearlessness and confidence. These are the qualities that Aunt Jennifer lacks in herself. These tigers represent Aunt Jennifer’s suppressed desires to become bold and fearless, and free from oppression. The poet wants to suggest that women need to have these qualities to fight against their oppressors.

Q. What kind of ordeals is Aunt Jennifer surrounded by? Or Why is she ‘ringed with ordeals’?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer is surrounded by the constraints of married life. She was probably dominated by her husband throughout her life. She was a timid woman and could never stand up to her husband boldly. She remained a caged bird and bore her sufferings meekly. She is the embodiment of the miseries inflicted by the patriarchal society.

Q. How do symbols in the poem, ‘Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers’ help us understand her plight?

Ans. Tiger and ring are two symbols as used in the poem. The ‘tiger’ is a symbol of power, confidence and masculine world. ‘Ring’ though represented as `wedding ring’ refers to the band or chain that binds a person to enslave him. The ‘tiger’ represents the longing of Aunt Jennifer, whereas ‘ring’ refers to her present position of oppressed and subjugated by the male-dominating world.

Q. Analyse the symbols and poetic devices employed in the poem.

Ans. Adrienne Rich has aptly used a number of images, symbols and poetic devices in the poem to convey the theme. The tigers symbolise the freedom of spirit which Aunt Jennifer dreams of attaining, but never achieves except in her dreams and art. Aunt Jennifer metaphorically represents the women as a whole, women who are victims of male superiority and domination. Tigers symbolise the true nature of a woman’s free soul that values strength and assertion. There lies a metaphor in the implied comparison of the tigers to the bright topaz denizens where tigers are considered to be the inhabitants of the forests, the crafted green world on the panel. The tigers are also attributed with the quality of chivalry in their confidence. The alliteration in ‘fingers fluttering’ evokes the sense of irony in the poem, as the fingers signify Jennifer’s physical feebleness. She therefore finds it difficult to pull the ivory needle. The alliteration ‘prancing proud’ signifies the everlasting sternness of the tigers.

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