Describe the various imagery used in the poem the "The Night of the Scorpion"?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The poem "The Night of the Scorpion" is written as a first-person recollection of when the speaker's (assuming Nissim Ezekiel) mother was stung by a scorpion. Ezekiel grew up in Bombay and his father was a botany and zoology professor. Therefore, it could seem that the experience would be one which Ezekiel actually lived.

The imagery in the poem is used to excite fear and anxiety in the reader; as well as, detail the fear and anxiety which Ezekiel himself felt.

flash of diabolic tail

The imagery associated with this line exemplifies the magnitude of the seriousness of the injury. The tail is described as being "diabolic" (belonging to, or associated with, the Devil). The Devil brings pain, darkness, and typically exudes fear. The metaphoric language used here shows Ezekiel's deepest fears- that the Devil has come to injure his mother.

peasants came like swarms of flies

The imagery associated with flies shows the magnitude of the injury. Many people came running to the home upon hearing about the scorpion sting. Perhaps, medications and the likely-hood of surviving a sting were low. People came to show support, offer prayers, and help in the only ways which they could.

buzzed the name of God a hundred times

Here, the chanting of God's name was spoken by so many people that it sounded incomprehensible. This also ties to the line about the swarms of flies. The sounds one hears when insects are buzzing is one many people are familiar with; therefore, this creates a sense of recognition for the reader.

lanterns throwing giant scorpion shadows on the mud-baked walls

This line shows the extent to which the scorpion had intruded fully upon the lives of the people who had gathered. The scorpion was feared greatly and the image of his body is all that the people saw around them.

More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours, more insects, and the endless rain.

The imagery here compounds the extent to which those of the village surrounded Eziekel's mother. It also shows how nature continued to be an ever-present reminder of the power of nature over man.

Throughout the poem, the imagery acted as a path so as to lead the reader into the scene of the action depicted.  Ezekiel's desire to allow a reader into this horrifying moment of his life was heightened through his use of imagery. Ezekiel needed the reader to know the extent to which the sting affected the entire village, his mother, and himself.


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