Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

Adrienne Cecile Rich


About The Author

Adrienne Cecile Rich (1929 – 2012): She was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She was one of the most widely read and influenced poets of the second half of the 20th century. In her poems, she talks about woman's experiences in her married life. She has tried to explore the inner feelings of women who are living under the dominance of men. Adrienne rich was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. She is widely known for her active involvement in the women's movement. She has published 19 volumes of poetry, three collections of essays and other writings. She was strongly against racism and inequality prevailed in human society. In the poem Aunt Jennifer's Tigers, the poet describes the oppressed condition of women by males and their dominance in society.



This poem is about a woman whose marriage has not been a happy one. She has suffered at the hands of her husband. She makes pictures of tigers on the panel. But she is in the grip of ordeals which have crushed her. She has gone through the tortures of marriage. She adopts tigers as her idol. A tiger is a symbol of strength and freedom.

यह कविता एक ऐसी महिला के बारे में है जिसका विवाहित जीवन प्रसन्नतापूर्ण नहीं है। उसने अपने पति के हाथों बहुत कष्ट भोगे हैं। वह एक पैनल पर शेरों के चित्र बनाती है। मगर वह ऐसे कष्टों में फँसी हुई है जिन्होंने उसे कुचल दिया है। उसने शादी के कष्टों को भोगा है। वह शेरों को अपना आदर्श बना लेती है। शेर शक्ति और आज़ादी का प्रतीक है।


Summary In English

See Video Summary of the Poem

This poem runs on two levels. On the surface level, it presents the hardships in the life of a married woman. Thereby applying it on all the women on the earth. On the deeper level, it also contrasts mortality of man against the immortality of art.
Married women have to involve in the toils of the domestic life right from the first day of their marriage. In the young age they are supposed to do the works of house decoration. But even in the old age they continue their hard work. Aunt Jennifer is one such lady in the poem. In her young age she used to make embroidered wall hangings. They still decorate her home. But now she has no strength left in her fingers. She is not able to drag the ivory needle of the cloth. Her fingers flutter. Stills she feels on her wrists the weight of the marriage band. She can't put them off. It seems as if even after her death she would feel this burden. Thus, the poetess says that the life of a married woman is a life of continued hard work and responsibilities.


On the deeper level the poem beautifully contrasts the immortality of art and mortality of human life. The poem somehow touches the theme of the poem 'Ode on Gratian Urn' by Keats. Aunt Jennifer has grown very old. Perhaps after a few days she would go to her grave. There is no energy left in her fingers and hands. She is not even able to pull out the ivory needle through her cloth. But the tigers on the wall hanging made by her are as energetic and lively as ever. There is no change in them. Thus, the poem ends with the theme of immortality of art.

See Video for Explanation of the Chapter

Stanza wise Explanation


Stanza 1:

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.

Word Meanings
Prance-jump over, Across-from this to the other side, Screen-(here) a wall, Bright-shining, Topaz-a transparent yellow stone used in jewellery, Denizens-dwellers, World of green-green forests, Beneath-under, Pace-run fast, Sleek-shining and well groomed, Chivalry- honourable and brave, Certainty (here) confidence!


Aunt Jennifer has created her tigers in the panel with ivory needles. Her tigers are jumping across a screen. These dwellers of the green forests look like bright yellow shining topaz. They are fearless and don't fear the men standing under the tree. They are well-groomed and smooth. They look honourable and brave, and pace with confidence and certainty.

Aunt Jennifer ने हाथों-दाँत को सलाइयों से फलक (पट्टे) पर अपने चीते बनाये हैं। उसके चीते एक दीवार के ऊपर से आगे की और छलांग लगा रहे हैं। हरे-हरे जंगलों के में निवासी चमकीले पीले पुखराजों की तरह लग रहे हैं। ये पेड़ के नीचे खड़े हुए आदमियों से नहीं डरते थे निर्मित रूप से शीर्वपूर्ण निश्चय के साथ दौड़ रहे हैं।

Poetic Devices:
Alliteration – The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. 'Chivalric Certainty'.
Metaphor – A figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. 'Bright Topaz Denizens'

Questions from Stanza for Comprehension:
1. How are Aunt Jennifer's tigers described?
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's tigers are dynamic, sleek, and full of strength and chivalric grace.
2. Why are they described as denizens of a world of green?
Ans. The tigers are the animals that live in forests. They live in a world of green surrounded by green trees and thick green vegetation.
3. Why are they not afraid of the men?
Ans. They are not afraid of the men because they are not real. Even otherwise ferocious and strong tigers are never afraid of men.
4. Find the word in the passage meaning 'dwellers?
Ans. denizens.


Stanza 2:

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.

Word Meanings
Fluttering-moving about, Ivory-made of ivory, Pull—drawing, Massive (here) heavy, Band-strip.

Aunt Jennifer's fingers are moving about her wool. But she is finding even the ivory needle hard to pull. The heavy weight of Uncle's (her husband's) wedding band still lies heavy upon Aunt Jennifer's hands. Her past married life has left only unpleasant and bitter memories behind.

Aunt Jennifer की उंगलियाँ उसकी ऊन में तेजी से चल रही हैं। वे हाथी दांत की बनी हुई सलाइयाँ भी मुश्किल से खाँच रही हैं। उनके पति (Uncle) की शादी के फीते का बंधन Aunt Jennifer के हाथों पर भारी पड़ रहा है। उसका बीता विवाहित जीवन केवल कटु और असुहावनी यादें छोड़ गया है।

Poetic Devices:
Hyperbole – Exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. From the poem: 'The massive weight of uncle's wedding band'
Alliteration – The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. From the poem: “Fingers Fluttering

Questions from Stanza for Comprehension:
1. Where were Aunt's fingers fluttering through?
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's fingers were fluttering through her wool.
2. How was she pulling the needle?
Ans. She was pulling the ivory needle with great difficulty.
3. What was lying heavy?
Ans. The weight of Uncle's wedding band was lying heavy on her hand. Her married life was not happy and pleasant.
4. Where did the wedding band sit upon?
Ans. The wedding band that united them, sat heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hands. Old unpleasant memories check the free movement of her hands.
5. Find words from the stanza which mean:
(i) moving about
(ii) heavy
(iii) strip

Ans. (i) fluttering (ii) massive (iii) band


Stanza 3:

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.

Word Meanings
Terrified-threatened, Ringed with-here surrounded by, encircled, Ordeals-(here) difficult or hard experiences, mastered by-controlled, put under, Panel-board.

Aunt Jennifer will not be free from fear even after her death. Hard and unpleasant experiences of her past married life will not leave her even after her death. Their signs will still be seen on her old fingers. But the tigers she has made in the panel will go en jumping ahead, proud and unafraid. Aunt Jennifer will not live in this world. But her art and the tigers that she created in the panel will go on jumping as ever.

जब Aunt Jennifer मर जाएगी तो उसकी आतंकित उंगलियाँ तब भी उन मुसीबतों से घिरी रहेंगी जिन्होंने उसको अधीन कर रखा था। पट्टी या फलक पर जो चीते उसने बनाए हैं वे गर्वित भाव से निडर छलांग लगाते रहेंगे। Aunt Jennifer इस संसार में नहीं रहेगी। परन्तु उसकी कला, उसके पट्टे पर बनाये चीते यों ही छलांग लगाते रहेंगे।

Poetic Devices:
Transferred epithet: Transferred epithet is when an adjective usually used to describe one thing is transferred to another. An epithet is a word or phrase which describes the main quality of someone or something: Terrified hands.

Questions from Stanza for Comprehension:
1. What are the ordeals that Aunt Jennifer faced in her life!
Ans. Aunt Jennifer didn't seem to have led a pleasant married life. The hard and bitter experiences of her married life lie heavy on her.
2. How are the tigers different from her!
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's tigers provide a striking contrast. The old lady is weak and can't even move her 'terrified fingers. On the other hand, her tigers symbolise strength, power and speed.
3. Why are Aunt Jennifer's hands terrified?
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's hands are 'terrified' as they still bear the cruel burdens of her happy wedded life.
4. Where did she make the tigers!
Ans. She made the tigers in the panel (with the ivory needles).
5.What will happen to her tigers after her death!
Ans. The tigers will continue jumping unafraid in 'sleek' chivalry.


Question and Answers

1. How do 'denizens' and 'chivalric' add to our understanding of the tiger's attitudes?
Ans. Tigers like all beasts of prey are the denizens of the forest. They live far away from human settlements. They are called 'chivalrie. This shows the majestic and honourable position that they occupy in the world of animals. They are brave and majestic. So, the use of 'denizens' and 'chivalrie' for tigers adds to our understanding of their attitude. Aunt Jennifer's hands are moving through her wool. They are weaving tigers in the panel. She is finding the needle very hard to pull. The unpleasant and bitter experiences.

2. What is suggested by the image 'massive weight of Uncle's wedding' band'? (V. Imp.)
What is suggested by the phrase 'massive weight of Uncle's wedding band? (Aunt Jennifer's Tigers)

Ans. Uncle's wedding' is a suggestive imagery. It is symbolic of the weight of the harsh and difficult experiences of her married life. The wedding band represents the unbreakable bond of marriage between the husband and the wife. Aunt Jennifer is terrified. The 'terrified hands' in the third stanza are the old unhappy memories which are still fresh in her mind.

3. 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. Aunt Jennifer is still mentally surrounded by the ordeals she faced during her married life. The poem narrates the not so happy experiences of married life. The word 'ringed" is significant. It makes it clear that vicious grips of her unhappy married life are still holding her tightly. The conventional use stands for the symbol of the sacred bond of marriage. The other figurative use of the word is as 'encircled.

4. 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? (Imp.)
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's animals are so different from her own character. They are "prancing. They pace in 'sleek chivalrie certainty. They are symbols of strength, fierceness and beauty. But the massive weight of the wedding band sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hands. Her fingers carry the weight of the unpleasant experiences of her past life. Her old fingers can't even pull the needle fast.

5. Interpret the symbols found in this poem.
Ans. Adrienne Rich's 'Aunt Jennifer's Tigers' is rich in symbolism. The massive weight of wedding band' symbolises ordeals, hardships and worries of married life. Terrified hands', and 'ringed with ordeals' also mean those unpleasant experiences. They cling to Aunt Jennifer physically and mentally.

6. Do you sympathise with Aunt Jennifer? What is the attitude of the speaker towards Aunt Jennifer?
Ans. Naturally, we sympathise with Aunt Jennifer. She faced many ordeals and hardships during her married life. The attitude of the speaker towards Aunt Jennifer is equally sympathetic. Through different symbols and suggestive images, the poet describes her burdensome married life. 7. Describe the tigers created by Aunt Jennifer.
How does the poet describe Aunt Jennifer's tigers?

Ans. Aunt Jennifer weaves and creates tigers in the panel. They are bright topaz denizens of the forest. Her tigers symbolise strength, speed and splendour. They pace with confidence and certainty. They provide a striking contrast to the frail old lady who created them.

8. What difficulty does Aunt Jennifer face while making her tigers and why?
Ans. Aunt Jennifer is making her tigers in the panel. She is using ivory needles and her fingers are fluttering through her wool. She finds it hard to pull even the ivory needle. Actually, the weight of her unhappy and unfortunate married life sits heavy on her fingers.

9. Why did Aunt Jennifer choose to embroider tigers on the panel?
Ans. The frail and old Ans. Aunt Jennifer was all alone. The unhappy memories of her marred life were only an unbearable burden for her. Hence, she spent her time in embroidering tiges in the panel. Her beautiful creation gave her satisfaction and happiness. Creating prance tigers in 'chivalric certainty was a pleasure for the frail old lady.

10. What is the weight that lies heavy on her hand and how is it associated with her husband?
Ans. Aunt Jennifer can't move even her fingers freely in the wool. Actually, she has some bitter experiences of her past married life. The memories of her married life with her husband have been quite unpleasant. The weight of the wedding band sits heavily upon Aut Jennifer's hand. She finds it difficult even to pull the ivory needle easily with her weak fingers.

11. Aunt Jennifer's efforts to get rid of her fear proved to be futile. Comment.
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's efforts to get rid of her fear did prove to be futile. She was constantly hounded and troubled by the ordeals of her married life. The old and unpleasant memories of her married life didn't give her any solace or happiness. The unbearable and massive weight of uncle's wedding band' made her fingers tremble and shake.

12. What will happen to Aunt Jennifer's tigers when she is dead?
Ans. The tigers, Aunt Jennifer has created will not die when she is dead. They will survive her. They will go on prancing, proud and afraid. Aunt Jennifer will die bat her creations will survive, Art always survives death.

13. What picture of male chauvinism (tyranny) do we find in the poem, Aunt Jennifer's Tigers'?
Ans. 'Aunt Jennifer's Tigers' presents a picture of male chauvinism. Aunt Jennifer's husband was a very dominating, overbearing and insensitive man. The weight of marriage that bonded her husband still lies heavily upon her heart. Hardships and sufferings were the parts of her married life. The tyranny of her husband had left only unpleasant and bitter memories behind. Her overbearing and insensitive husband was a living picture of male chauvinism.

14. Describe the poetic devices used in the poem.
Ans. Adrienne Rich's 'Aunt Jennifer's Tigers' is rich in imagery and symbolism. The pace of the tigers has been described by the effective use of alliteration-sleek, chivalrie certainty. The massive weight of wedding band symbolises ordeals and hardships of Aunt's married life. The metaphors Terrified hands' and 'ringed with ordeals create the desired poetic effect.

15. Aunt Jennifer's tigers are totally different from her own character.
Ans. Aunt Jennifer's tigers are prancing over a screen. They look 'sleek and chivalrie’ They are a picture of strength, beauty and certainty. On the other hand, Aunt Jennifer is still mentally in the grip of old ordeals and terrors. They terrorized her during her married life Her weak 'terrified fingers find even the ivory needle hard to pull.

16. Write a brief summary of the poem.
Ans. It is a very short but deeply thematic poem. The poetess has brought out the themes very beautifully through symbols. The main theme of the poem is to present the miserable condition of the married women. They have to toil hard. They have to pay their domestic duties. They have to subdue their natural pride under the force of their husband. They grow old among these ordeals. But still they have to continue with them. It seems if are not free from these responsibilities even after their death. Thus their life is a life of continuous misery.
The poem also presents another theme on the deeper level. It contrasts the mortality of human beings against the immortality of arts. Aunt Jennifer embroidered the tigers in her youth. Now she has grown badly old. Her hands and fingers fail to work. But the tigers embroidered by her are lively and energetic as ever. Tigers are symbol of art. Aunt Jennifer is the symbol of human life on the earth.

Enjoy MCQs of this poem on YouTube

Multiple Choice Questions

Q1- Who is the poet of the poem Aunt Jennifer's Tigers?
A) Adrienne Rich
B) Jonathan Aaron
C) J. H. M. Abbott
D) Mark Abbey


Q2- What is the poet known for?
A) She is widely known for her involvement in contemporary women's movement as a poet and theorist
B) for her beauty
C) for her philosophy
D) for her poems

Q3- What issue does the poem Aunt Jennifer's Tigers address?
A) constraints of women
B) constraints of married life a woman experiences
C) constraints of women as a poet
D) None

Q4- What do aunt Jennifer's fluttering hands through her wool in the second stanza tells us?
A) the lost freedom and fear of Jennifer's mind because of marital restraints
B) her old age
C) her love for embroidery and knitting
D) her love for tigers

Q5- Why is she finding the needle so hard to pull?
A) because of fluttering fingers
B) because of trembling hands
C) because of her fears
D) because of the heavy weight of her marriage ring

Q6- Of what or of whom is aunt Jennifer terrified of in the 3rd stanza?
A) of tigers
B) of her death
C) of her old age
D) of her dominant husband

Q7- What are the ordeals aunt Jennifer is surrounded by?
A) wild animals
B) old people
C) a heavy crowd
D) heavy responsibilities of married life

Q8- What is the attitude of the poet or speaker towards aunt Jennifer?
A) critic
B) very harsh and rude
C) indifferent
D) full of appreciation and sympathy

Q9- Does Aunt Jennifer need sympathy?
A) yes
B) no
C) no more than sympathy she deserves praise
D) none

Q10- What did marriage bring for Jennifer?
A) unhappiness
B) loss of freedom
C) loss of freedom and burden as if she has put on a heavy band
D) a heavy mountain

Q11- What would Jennifer's terrified hands tell after her death?
A) story of her life
B) her constrained married life
C) her strength to find her ways and beat the fears
D) All these

Q12- What is presented through uncle's character?
A) Male strength
B) Man is powerful
C) man is like tigers
D) male chauvinism

Q13- What is Aunt doing in the poem?
A) Embroidery
B) Reading
C) Sleeping
D) Cooking

Q14- What is still fresh in Jennifer's mind?
A) happy moments
B) early days of marriage
C) uncle's attitude
D) the old unhappy memories

Q15- What did ordeals or tough times do in Jennifer's life?
A) they made her a hard-hearted person
B) she developed hatred
C) she became weak
D) they crushed her artistic personality

Q16- Interpret terrified hands.
A) Physical condition of aunt
B) mental state of aunt
C) tensed troubled physical and mental state of aunt Jennifer
D) fears of aunt

Q17- What is aunt Jennifer loaded with?
A) weight of rings
B) weight of tigers
C) burden of household work
D) heavy responsibilities of married life

Q18- What lies heavily on aunt Jennifer's hand?
A) needles
B) embroideries
C) work pressure
D) wedding ring

Q19- What is the purpose of creating animals which are completely a contrast to aunt's character?
A) to show her strength and ability of not giving up in the face of difficulties
B) her courage
C) her fears and strengths
D) none

Q20- What is the poet suggesting through the different nature of characters in the poem?
A) diversity in nature
B) all are different and unique
C) simultaneous nature of fears and strengths of aunt. Though she has fears yet she is not defeated by them
D) all

Q21- Tell and interpret the meaning of 'Denizen of a world of green'.
A) forest haters
B) forest lovers
C) forest dwellers
D) all

Q22- Where do aunt's tigers belong?
A) to a cage
B) zoo
C) mountains
D) world of green forests

Q23- What is the poet conveying through aunt Jennifer's tiger?
A) wild life
B) courageous tigers
C) tigers and their courage
D) female existence and their fear of men

Q24- How are aunt Jennifer's tigers different from her?
A) aunt lives in a city and tigers in forests
B) aunt is old and tigers are young
C) tigers are courageous and carefree and aunt is terrified
D) none

Q25- How do the prancing tigers look?
A) just like diamond
B) just like Topaz
C) just like coal
D) just like stone

Q26- Why did aunt embroider tigers on the panel?
A) to express her supressed feelings
B) to express her strengths
C) to express her fighting spirit of a warrior
D) All these

Q27- Why are tigers given the name Aunt Jennifer's tigers?
A) because she created them as an expression to her inner feelings
B) because she brought them
C) because she bought them
D) because she nurtured them

Q28- How are tigers described in the poem?
A) as ferocious
B) fearless
C) chivalric
D) All these

Q29- What is the meaning of the word 'Chivalric'?
A) ferocious
B) fearless
C) commanding and demanding high respect
D) None

Q30- What are Aunt Jennifer's tigers doing?
(A) prancing across a screen
(B) fearing the men beneath the tree
(C) sitting quietly under a tree
(D) they are running away from women

Q31- What is the tone of the poem towards the end?
A) happy moments
B) resolving
C) hopeful
D) sad and tensed

Q32- What does wedding ring represent?
A) beauty
B) expenses
C) unnecessary pressures of her dominant husband and responsibilities of married life
D) none

Q33- What is the significance of the word ringed?
A) responsibilities
B) heavy duties
C) fatty people
D) responsibilities that formed circles like a ring surrounding her finger

Q34- What is the meaning of the word 'ringed?
A) circles of a ring
B) her wedding ring around finger
C) circles of responsibility of married life
D) none

Q35- What does the image 'massive weight of the wedding band ' mean?
A) wedding bond of hard married life
B) fatty structure of uncle
C) fatty body of aunty
D) heavy body of tiger

Q36- What is the wedding band?
A) ring
B) ring ceremony
C) marriage between uncle and aunt
D) All

37. Who is the poet of this poem?
(A) John Keats
(B) Robert Frost
(C) Adrienne Rich
(D) William Shakespear

38. How do the tigers look ?
(A) fearful
(B) bright denizens of a world of green
(C) forceful
(D) very old and weak

39. What are the tigers not afraid of ?
(A) Aunt Jennifer
(B) poet
(C) The men beneath the tree
(D) all of the above

40. The rhyme scheme of this poem is :
(A) aa bb
(B) ab ab
(C) ab cd
(D) ab ba

Match your Answer with Answer Key:
1A 2A 3B 4A 5D 6D 7D 8D 9C 10C
11B 12D 13A 14C 15D 16C 17D 18D 19A 20C
21C 22D 23D 24C 25B 26A 27A 28D 29C 30A
31D 32C 33D 34C 35A 36C 37C 38B 39C 40A

थैंक्यू। बेस्ट ऑफ लक।
*मेरे चैनल को सब्सक्राइब करने के लिए 👇*
*Channel link 👇* https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCr7jUtG5GGASRe8Q1bVmFFQ
*दोस्तों और Classmates को जरूर भेज देना। ठीक है।*
*:Vijay Kumar*
*Learning is fun here*
*JOIN our WhatsApp & TELEGRAM (at 9466707359) groups where we teach English syllabus.*