"Aunt Jennifer's Tigers" by Adrienne Rich tells of the repressed Aunt Jennifer who produces scenes representing freedom and fearlessness, but in reality is trapped and powerless. Only through her artistic expression is she able to find a temporary release from her entrapment. In "Trifles", Minnie Wright allows herself to be subjugated for thirty years before she frees her whole self, through drastic means that leads to a more permanent solution, murdering her husband. From a feminist perspective, these two works give very different examples of how a woman is the cast as the "nonsignificant other" (Bressler 144), but discovers a way out of her continual oppression by rejecting their insignificance.
Rich begins her poem by describing the tigers of Aunt Jennifer's tapestry. They are vibrant and powerful with no fear of men. One begins to feel that Aunt Jennifer, as the artist, must be a free spirit because she can dream of those tigers. They are above the men who want to hunt them and therefore out of reach. This confirms the feminist idea that women's minds are just as complex as men's and so their works of art should be appreciated beside that produced by men, not as inferior products: "both sexes are to be valued as creative, rational people who can all contribute to their societies and their world." (Bressler 153)
The second stanza introduces the reader to Aunt Jennifer. It stresses the struggle and determination it takes for Aunt Jennifer to create her work of art under the "massive weight of Uncle's wedding band." Aunt Jennifer is not only trapped by her husband, but as the wedding ring symbolizes, by the culture that reinforces the marriage. Her tigers are above men, but Aunt Jennifer is held down by her marriage. This type of situation, where a women is cast in an inferior roll, is one that feminists abhor.
The last stanza foretells Aunt Jennifer's death and refers to her hands as terrified, "ringed with ordeals she was mastered by" again brings up the image of the wedding band, but it also implies that she is to be a servant of her master until she dies. The last couplet reveals the Aunt Jennifer's ultimate victory. She did manage to escape after all, through her art. The product of her work will last for generations to come even after she is gone: "The tigers...will go on prancing, proud and unafraid." Although Aunt Jennifer was suppressed in her life, her art will reflect her inner self for all of eternity.
Through her art, Aunt Jennifer is accomplishing one of Feminism's goal, which is for women to declare their worth "in the arenas of politics, society, education, and the arts." (Bressler 144) Tradionally in Western Civilization, men were considered more spiritual, intellectual, and artistic. Women's art was dismissed as inferior and unworthy of respect. The teachings of the philosopher, Aristotle, and many other dominant historical figures encouraged this idea: "These imperfect and spiritually weak...