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Can I please have a detailed explanation of the poem "The night Of the Scorpion" Line...

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aishwarya95 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted July 12, 2009 at 9:37 PM via web

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Can I please have a detailed explanation of the poem "The night Of the Scorpion" Line by line explanation please...

This is a poem we are currently doing in our school and I would like to understand it in a better way.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 12, 2009 at 11:10 PM (Answer #1)

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We will take this in sections.  I have left out line numbers and broken it up into section.  I think you can match up specific lines numbers in the version you have from school with each bulleted section.

  • The opening of the poem is featured. The speaker's mother bit by a scorpion who took refuge behind the sack of rice.
  • We get the impression that the poem is set in a village, and like many villages, when one crisis hits a family, the whole throng of villagers come out. Some come out as a sign of help, others come out to mock.  The poet makes the villagers here come out of a sincere desire to help.
  • The villagers give their curses to the scorpion, who has little choice but to take it.  It is interesting because while the opening line may speak to the scorpion, the lines that follow could apply to the mother, who has been bit.  This raises an interesting take on how the villagers view her.  It is interesting to read this section as a section spoken to the scorpion or to the mother.  Ask yourself how the meaning of the lines change if we apply it to either character (scorpion or mother).
  • This section contrasts both the villagers with their ways of addressing the scorpion sting with old world remedies and the father, who is willing to do anything to save his wife.  He sounds like a believer in the Western approach to medicine, but also understands that he will buy into and accept whatever is needed to save the woman he loves.
  • A priest comes to either help the mother overcome the sting, or administer last rites to her as she is dying.  The idea here is that we are not sure if the mother lives or dies.  If you read it in both ways, the meaning of the poem differs a bit.  For example, "the flame feeding" on his mother:  Is it because she is living and the priest is doing something to make her live, or because she is dying and the flame is the scorpion's poison.  The mother's last words about how she was happy that the creature bit her and not her children:  Is this because she lived to tell the story of how she was happy to have spared her children this agonizing pain of the scorpion's bite or was it because she died giving her life for her children?  Again, it is not very clear how the mother fares and reading it in both ways (she lives or she dies) changes the meaning of the poem and enhances its complexity.
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deeptisd | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted April 22, 2011 at 5:08 PM (Answer #2)

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The mother might have lived. I say this because the poem says "After twently hours it lost its sting". As far as i remember my teacher meant the same.

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bookwormmusician | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 5, 2012 at 4:41 AM (Answer #3)

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The poet goes back to when he was a child. When he was young, his mother was stung by a scorpion, which was hiding underneath a sack full of rice due to non-stop 10-hour rain. This happened at night.

He stung the mother in a second with his 'diabolical tail' and went out in the rain again.

On hearing the shouts of pain from the mother, a lot of peasants came in and kept on chanting the name of God so that they can stop the scorpion (Evil one). Notice how he says that the peasants were like swarms of flies and he elaborates by saying that they 'buzzed' like flies do.

The scorpion was still in the room, so when the peasants brought in candles and lanterns, enlarged shadows of the scorpion was thrown on the walls. They were searching for the scorpion because they believed that 'with every movement that the scorpion made, his poison moved in Mother's blood', so if they killed it then Mother's suffering would stop. When they couldn't find it, all they could do was click their tongues.

They prayed that the scorpion would sit still. They told the mother that with all the suffering she receives now, the sins of her previous birth will be removed and the misfortunes in the next birth decrease. With this suffering, the balance of evil and good is maintained. The poison will purify her of 'desire' and 'spirit of ambition'. They had made a circle around her with expressions of understanding (i.e. of her pain). With more people coming in, there were more candles and lanterns, and more insects came in, but the rain didn't stop.

The mother was on a mat groaning and twisting about. The narrator's father was a man of science and probably a doctor. However, he was so tensed at that time and with a lack of proper aids, he was doing everything the villagers told him to. He tried every curse and blessing, powder, mixture (medical solution), herb and hybrid. He also put a bit of paraffin wax on the bitten toe and put it on fire. (This is a very old method of removing pain. If anyone suffered a cut of some sort, they would put paraffin wax on it and set it on fire. This was a convenient method curing cuts and bruises, before bandages.) He saw the flame move around the affected area.

It went up to such an extent that a holy man/priest/guru came and performed a religious ceremony to remove the poison. it was only after 20 hours, the pain stopped.

His mother was thankful to God that the scorpion bit her and spared her children. 

Hope this was helpful :)

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