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"Night of the Scorpion," by Nissim Ezekiel, is a narrative poem that includes several striking images. These images can be interpreted as symbols.
The poem begins by telling that "Ten hours / of steady rain had driven him [the scorpion] / to crawl beneath a sack of rice." Later, the poet clearly identifies the scorpion as "the Evil One." The scorpion's hiding beneath a sack of rice can now be seen as a symbol of the evil that is hidden in various places in the world and in ourselves.
The peasants who come to help the narrator's mother are depicted as being little more than powerless insects themselves:
The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred
Later, the peasants are again compared to powerless insects:
More candles, more lanterns, more
In contrast to the superstitious peasants, the narrator's father represents rational modernity: "My father, sceptic, rationalist." In this time of crisis, however, the father's rationalism is ineffective, and he resorts to incantations and folk remedies:
[My father] trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
These images, among others, appeal to the reader's senses, and help bring to life the poem's symbolic meanings.
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