Saturday, December 12, 2009

Night of the Scorpion

The narrator, probably the poet himself when he was a small boy, narrates the incident of his mother getting stung by a scorpion one night and the reactions of others to this in the poem. The poem also gives an insight into the behaviour, reactions and beliefs of the villagers.
1 to 7
Ten hours of continuous rain had made the scorpion seek shelter under a sack of rice in the house of the narrator. After stinging his mother, it went out risking the rain again. The tail of the scorpion is referred to as devilish or evil because it contains poison and also because of the belief that the devil acts through the poison of the scorpion.
8 to 18
As the news spread the neighbouring farmers came pouring in and recited the name of God to lessen the effect of the poison. The poet uses the simile of “swarms of flies” to show the behaviour of the villagers, namely, flocking in numbers and buzzing the name of God like flies buzzing. They visit either to witness the mother in pain or to contribute in the prayers. The onomatopoeic words ‘buzzed’ and ‘clicked’ reflect their constant noise. Their lanterns and candles seemed to make giant scorpions shadows of them on the wall. Through this depiction of the shadows the poet wants to convey the narrator’s fear of the situation and create the frightening background. They searched for the scorpion to stop it from moving because they believed that the poison moved in mother’s blood when the scorpion moved. But their search was in vain. They hoped and prayed that the scorpion stayed still in a place.

19 to 31

They expressed the belief that the pain would burn away the sins of her previous birth and decrease the misfortunes of her next birth. They also hoped that the sum of evil which is balanced against the sum of good in this illusionary world become diminished with her pain. They hoped and believed that the poison would purify her mind of her physical desires and ambitions. They sat around her with calm faces as though they seemed to understand why the woman was stung and the consequences of the sting as stated in their beliefs. The tranquil expression on the peasants’ face is in direct contrast to the painful struggling of the narrator’s mother.

32 to 43

People continued coming into the house along with more rain. All the while the mother twisted with pain on the mat. Though the narrator’s father was a sceptic and a rationalist, he tried everything - medicinal powder, herbs and mixtures. Following a belief that was prevalent, he also poured a little paraffin upon the bitten toe and lit a match to it hoping to burn up the poison. His actions are in direct contrast to his views because he wants to try out everything possible to save his wife. The narrator also watched the holy men perform their rites and chant holy verses to lessen the effect of the poison.

44 to 48
The poison lost its effect after twenty hours. The mother’s reaction was only to thank God for sparing her children from the scorpion and choosing her instead to sting. Thus the mother stands as a symbol of selfless love for her children.

If you felt that this information has been useful for you and if you feel inclined to help orphans kindly donate money to the orphanage that my friend runs. First, take a little time to go through its website: