The Use of Symbols in Adrienne Rich's Poem, Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

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The Use of Symbols in Adrienne Rich's Poem, Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

Freedom has always been an important value in the United States that most people are not willing to give up. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a writer who lived in the 1800s, reminded Americans of their rights of liberty at a time when many people started to conform to established norms. He voiced his opinions about the loss of freedom and invited society to realize that they were relinquishing their rights. Years later, his views still had an impact on citizens. Adrienne Rich, a poet of the mid-1900s, also found her autonomy a necessity in life. She wrote a poem in 1951 called "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," which exhibited her opinions about living a life of reliance on others. The
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During the 1960s, however, she shifted the focus of her writing to "political and feminist themes" (Litlinks). These new views exhibited the beginning of her expressed resentment toward men. Her feminist perspectives continued to show through her other writings, many of which were based upon motherhood and lesbianism (Litlinks). Though she wrote the poem, "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," before the official shift in themes, the same feminist influence is apparent.

In the 1951 poem, the tigers themselves represent the life that Aunt Jennifer was never able to lead. She begins by describing the tigers as "pranc[ing] across the screen" (Rich line1 590). The scenes of the graceful animals that she creates are not restrained by anything and are free to roam. In the next line, she further illustrates them as "bright topaz denizens of a world of green" (line2 590). By using such detailed words to depict the same scene of the tigers, Rich indicates the beauty that lies in the animals' freedom. In her final line, the tigers "go on prancing, proud and unafraid" (line12 590). Aunt Jennifer was never allowed to be her own person, always living under the power of her husband. The tigers serve as her escape from a life filled of fear and oppression. In her poem, Rich clearly shows the importance of autonomy through Aunt Jennifer's wishes to be free.

As another symbol, the ring further conveys her aversion to dependence. It shows that in her life, and death, Aunt
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