In Nissim Ezekiel's "Night of the Scorpion", whom does the "holy man" refer to?In line 42, the  narrator says that "I watched the holy man perform his rights". Does it refer to a village priest?...

In Nissim Ezekiel's "Night of the Scorpion", whom does the "holy man" refer to?

In line 42, the  narrator says that "I watched the holy man perform his rights". Does it refer to a village priest? Can  it refer to the narrator's father? If no, why not?

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akannan's profile pic

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

Posted on

I would say that the "holy man" referenced would have to be a village priest.  The fact that many of the villagers have already descended on the home of the woman and have begun the process of chanting mantras intended to guide the woman's soul into the next stage of consciousness indicates to me that the word has been sent out that the sting was a fatal one.  The priest's chantings would be the next phase of this process.  I cannot see it as the father because of Ezekiel's description of him as a man who really does not seem to be very embracing of all of this.  Note the description:

My father, sceptic, rationalist,
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.

This indicates to me a man who is "trying" anything to prevent the inevitable and not one that resonates of the description of the Holy Man, whose incantations are meant to "tame" the poison, which I see as more of a metaphor of ensuring safe passage for the soul whose journey out of the mortal world is apparently near.

dstnflame's profile pic

dstnflame | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

"I watched the holy man perform his rites..."  is referring to a Priest. In Catholicism, only a priest is ordained to read the last rites, therefore, it could not possibly be referring to the father.   From the context clues and setting, it appears the mother's friends and others from the village came to see the mother die.  This would be additional confirmation that the "holy man" is a Priest.

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