Study Guide

Aunt Jennifer's Tigers The Tigers

By Adrienne Rich

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The Tigers

Clearly, Aunt Jennifer's tigers are a pretty important part of this poem. Heck, they're right up there in the title. But determining the meaning of the tigers can be a bit tricky. We think that the tigers actually raise more questions than they answer. Are they alter-egos for Aunt Jennifer? Does she wish that she were like them? Are they symbols of the life she wished she had? Does she live life through them? We can all agree that the tigers are everything that Aunt J is not, but there are still a whole lot of ways to interpret these furry, fierce friends.

  • Lines 1-2: The (needlework) tigers are beautiful and active—they "prance," and they're "bright topaz" inhabitants of a beautiful forest-y world. These tigers have a pretty sweet life, but they also exude joy and peace. 
  • Lines 3-4: The tigers are also brave. They're not afraid of anything. They pace back and forth in a way that's confident and chivalric (which means that they're like knights in shining armor). Aunt Jennifer has created some awesome creatures, even though we find out in the next stanza that Aunt Jennifer herself has had a tough life. She's incredibly capable in her art, even if she isn't in her own life. 
  • Lines 11-12: The speaker imagines the future, in which Aunt J is dead but her tigers live on in her beautiful tapestry. Aunt J can be brought down by death, but the cool thing about art (and these tapestry tigers) is that they can live forever! A little piece of Aunt J will become immortal via her prancing creations.

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