What are the social, political, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and economical thematic concerns in “Night of the Scorpion”?

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I am amazed that the poet, Nissim Ezekiel, packaged so many dramatic elements into a two-page poem.

Economics: The reader may not be surprised to learn the poet is from India after reading about the circumstances of the scorpion sting. Ten hours of steady rain drive the scorpion inside,...

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I am amazed that the poet, Nissim Ezekiel, packaged so many dramatic elements into a two-page poem.

Economics: The reader may not be surprised to learn the poet is from India after reading about the circumstances of the scorpion sting. Ten hours of steady rain drive the scorpion inside, to hide among the sacks of rice which are probably the family’s main food staple. Their neighbors arrive at a house with “mud-baked walls,” carrying candles and lanterns. Apparently they don’t have electricity, although the poem was published in 1965. They live in a poor neighborhood.

The political theme is closely tied to economics. Their neighbors are “peasants.” The man with power among them is the “holy man”; he performs rites over the suffering woman.

Social concerns, especially religion, dominate much of the poem. The peasants “buzzed the name of God a hundred times.” The high number could refer to numerous incantations, or perhaps to multiple Hindu deities. Ezekiel himself was Jewish, but the neighbors’ comments reflect the prevalent Hindu religion. They refer to the speaker’s mother’s next life (or perhaps her next childbirth) and the importance of denying desire and ambition. Although the speaker doesn’t explicitly say so, he implies that they see the scorpion sting as karma at work, and they accept the accident with peace and understanding.

The neighbors don’t interact with the sick woman; they share her experience with her and talk at her. The only truly interpersonal connection is with her husband, who believes in medicinal cures as much as in incantations. He experiments with powders, mixtures, and herbs, and even lights paraffin wax at the point of the scorpion sting.

The speaker himself, the son of the woman stung by the scorpion, gives us no insight into his own feelings or actions on the night in question, nor do we know how old he is. He watches with equal fascination both the medicines his father tries and the holy man’s incantations.

In a poem filled with drama, fear, and interesting experiences, the mother’s intrapersonal response is both simple and profound, personal and universal. She’s thankful the scorpion stung her and not her children.

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