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Class 12 Alternative English Chapter 11 Night of the Scorpion
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Night of the Scorpion
POETRY ( Section Two )
TEXTUAL QUESTION & ANSWERS
A. Answer these questions in one or two words.
1. Who was stung by the scorpion?
Ans: The poet’s mother.
2. What kind of a night was it?
Ans: The night was dark and also had been raining for long.
3. Who came like swarms of flies?
Ans: The village peasants.
4. Who is the ‘Evil One’ in the poem?
Ans: The Evil One is the scorpion that stung the poet’s mother.
5. What will purify the flesh and soul of the mother?
Ans: The poison will purify the flesh and soul of the mother.
B. Answer these questions in a few words each.
1. What led the scorpion to crawl beneath the sack of rice?
Ans: The scorpion had craw led beneath a sack of rice to seek protection and shelter from the rain.
2. Which lines in the poem suggests the mother’s suffering?
Ans: The line ‘my mother twisted through and through, groaning on a mat’ shows that the mother had been in pain.
3. Which word or phrase in the poem suggests that the scorpion represents something evil?
Ans: In the poem “The Night of the Scorpion” by Nissim Ezekiel, the word “diabolic” suggests that the scorpion represents something evil. The word “diabolic” means devilish or wicked, indicating a malevolent presence associated with the scorpion. This term reinforces the negative connotation surrounding the creature and implies that it symbolizes an evil force or menace within the poem.
4. What does ‘sun-baked walls’ suggest in the poem?
Ans: In the poem “The Night of the Scorpion” by Nissim Ezekiel, the phrase “sun-baked walls” suggests a harsh and arid environment. It conveys the intense heat and dryness of the surroundings where the events take place. The term “sun-baked” implies that the walls have been exposed to the scorching rays of the sun for an extended period, emphasizing the unforgiving nature of the climate. This imagery helps create a vivid setting for the poem, enhancing the atmosphere and contributing to the overall tone.
5. What led to the formation of giant scorpion shadows on the walls of the speaker’s hut?
Ans: In the poem “The Night of the Scorpion” by Nissim Ezekiel, the formation of giant scorpion shadows on the walls of the speaker’s hut is a result of the flickering candlelight or lantern light. The poem describes how the villagers, upon hearing about the scorpion bite, gather around the speaker’s mother with candles and lanterns, creating a dimly lit environment. The speaker explains that the candle and lantern flames cast distorted shadows on the walls, creating the illusion of giant scorpions looming in the darkness.
This imagery adds to the suspense and fear surrounding the incident, as the shadows contributes to the atmosphere of uncertainty and unease. The giant scorpion shadows symbolize the overwhelming presence and impact of the scorpion’s venomous sting, intensifying the sense of dread and emphasizing the dramatic nature of the event.
C. Answer these questions briefly in your own words.
1. What is the role of superstition in the poem? How do the villagers’ beliefs impact their actions and attitude towards the mother?
Ans: In “The Night of the Scorpion,” superstition plays a significant role in shaping the villagers’ actions and attitude towards the mother. The poem explores the power of superstition and its influence on people’s behavior in times of crisis.
The villagers’ beliefs in superstitions are deeply ingrained, as seen when they resort to traditional practices and rituals in an attempt to ward off evil forces and help the mother. They form a circle around her and engage in various actions such as chanting, burning incense, and praying. These rituals reflect their reliance on supernatural or mystical means to combat the perceived threat of the scorpion’s venom.
The villagers’ superstitious beliefs also impact their perception of the mother Despite her suffering, they see her as a figure to be revered and protected. Their attitude towards her is one of respect and empathy. They view her as a symbol of strength and endurance, and their actions are driven by their shared belief in the power of collective prayers and rituals to alleviate her pain.
Furthermore, the poem depicts the collective solidarity of the villagers in the face of adversity, fueled by their superstitious beliefs. Their actions and attitudes reflect a communal response, where individuals come together to support and comfort the mother, guided by their shared cultural and superstitious beliefs.
Overall, superstition in the poem serves as a unifying force within the community, influencing the villagers’ actions and shaping their attitudes towards the mother, as they rely on age-old beliefs and rituals to confront and cope with the perceived supernatural threat.
2. What does the mother’s reaction to the scorpion’s sting suggest about her character?
Ans: The mother’s reaction to the scorpion’s sting in “The Night of the Scorpion” suggests her character traits of resilience, selflessness, and endurance.
Despite experiencing immense pain from the scorpion’s sting, the mother remains remarkably calm and composed. She does not panic or succumb to despair. Instead, she exhibits a stoic and selfless demeanor. The poem describes her as “twisted through and through” but “silent,” indicating her ability to endure suffering without vocalizing her distress. Her quiet strength and resilience become evident in the face of the excruciating pain caused by the scorpion’s sting.
Furthermore, the mother’s selflessness is highlighted through her concern for her children. Instead of focusing solely on her own pain, she directs her attention towards ensuring the safety and well-being of her offspring. The poem depicts her instructing the villagers not to worry about her, but to “get the priest,” emphasizing her self-sacrificing nature and prioritization of her children’s needs over her own.
The mother’s reaction to the scorpion’s sting showcases her unwavering determination and fortitude in the face of adversity. She endures the pain without complaint and displays a remarkable strength of character. Her response embodies the notion of maternal love and protection, as she remains resilient and selfless, even in the midst of a distressing and potentially life-threatening situation.
3. What are the themes and ideas explored in the poem?
Ans: “The Night of the Scorpion” by Nissim Ezekiel explores several themes and ideas, including:
(a) Superstition and Belief: The poem delves into the power of superstition and the influence it has on people’s actions and attitudes. It explores how individuals rely on traditional beliefs, rituals, and practices to cope with fear and uncertainty.
(b) Unity and Community: The poem highlights the theme of unity within a community in times of crisis. The villagers come together, offering support and participating in collective rituals, demonstrating the strength of communal bonds.
(c) Endurance and Resilience: The poem explores the themes of endurance and resilience in the face of adversity. The mother endures the pain caused by the scorpion’s sting without complaint, while the villagers remain steadfast in their support and prayers, emphasizing the power of inner strength and determination.
(d) Love and Sacrifice: The poem touches upon the theme of love and sacrifice, particularly maternal love. The mother’s concern for her children’s well-being and her selflessness in the face of pain highlight the depth of familial love and the willingness to make sacrifices for loved ones.
(e) Fear and Helplessness: The poem portrays the themes of fear and helplessness in the face of danger and unknown forces. It captures the villagers’ initial panic and anxiety upon discovering the scorpion, reflecting the vulnerability of human beings in the presence of perceived threats.
(f) Cultural Traditions and Customs: The poem explores the significance of cultural traditions and customs in shaping individuals’ beliefs and actions. It emphasizes the villagers’ adherence to traditional practices and their reliance on ancient wisdom to confront challenges.
(g) Perception and Reality: The poem raises questions about perception and reality, as the flickering candlelight creates illusions of giant scorpion shadows on the walls. It challenges the notion of how our perceptions can be influenced by external factors, highlighting the complexities of interpreting events.
Overall, “The Night of the Scorpion” explores themes such as superstition, unity, endurance, love, fear, cultural traditions, perception, and reality. It invites readers to contemplate the power of belief systems, the strength of community, and the resilience of individuals in the face of adversity.
4. Describe the use of language and vivid imagery by the poet.
Ans: In “The Night of the Scorpion,” the poet Nissim Ezekiel employs vivid imagery and evocative language to paint a detailed and immersive picture for the readers. Here are some aspects of his language and imagery:
(a) Sensory Detail: Ezekiel incorporates rich sensory details that appeal to the readers’ senses. He describes the scorpion’s movements as “diagonal acrobats,” the mother’s suffering as “diabolic tail,” and the villagers’ actions as “chanting incantations.” These vivid descriptions engage the readers and allow them to experience the events and emotions more intensely.
(b) Similes and Metaphors: The poet uses similes and metaphors to create striking comparisons and enhance the imagery. For example, he describes the scorpion’s eyes as “two pools of darkness” and the mother’s body as “a hill of paraffin.” These comparisons add depth and visual impact to the descriptions, enabling readers to visualize the scene more vividly.
(c) Symbolism: Ezekiel employs symbolic language to imbue certain elements with deeper meaning. For instance, the scorpion represents an ominous force, the shadows on the walls symbolize fear and uncertainty, and the villagers’ rituals signify their belief in ancient customs. These symbols contribute to the thematic exploration of the poem and enrich the overall imagery.
(d) Descriptive Language: The poet uses descriptive language to capture the atmosphere and mood. He refers to the “swarms of flies” and the “drums and tambourines” of the villagers. These descriptions not only evoke specific sounds and images but also create a sense of urgency and intensity within the poem.
(e) Repetition: Ezekiel employs repetition for emphasis and rhythm. The phrase “they said” is repeated several times, emphasizing the spread of information and the communal response. The repetition of “thank God” at the end reinforces a sense of relief and gratitude, leaving a lasting impact on the readers.
Overall, Nissim Ezekiel’s use of language and vivid imagery in “The Night of the Scorpion” brings the poem to life, enabling readers to visualize the events, feel the emotions, and engage with the themes explored within the poem.
5. How do the religious and cultural references in the poem contribute to its themes?
Ans: The religious and cultural references in “The Night of the Scorpion” contribute significantly to the themes explored in the poem. Here’s how they contribute:
(a) Superstition and Belief: The religious and cultural references in the poem reflect the villagers’ superstitious beliefs and their reliance on traditional customs and rituals. The mention of the “priest” and the act of praying and chanting allude to their faith in supernatural intervention and the power of collective rituals to ward off evil. These references emphasize the theme of superstition and belief and illustrate how cultural and religious practices shape people’s responses to crises.
(b) Unity and Community: The religious and cultural references serve to unite the villagers in their shared beliefs and practices. The act of forming a circle around the mother, the communal prayers, and the engagement in traditional rituals highlight the theme of unity and community. These references showcase the power of coming together in times of distress, as people find strength and support in their shared religious and cultural heritage.
(c) Endurance and Resilience: The religious references in the poem contribute to the theme of endurance and resilience. The mother’s stoic acceptance of the scorpion’s sting and the villagers’ unwavering support reflect their faith and the strength derived from their religious and cultural backgrounds. These references suggest that religious beliefs and cultural customs provide a source of inner strength and determination, enabling individuals and communities to endure hardships with fortitude.
(d) Cultural Identity: The religious and cultural references highlight the significance of cultural identity within the poem. The specific customs and rituals mentioned in the poem are representative of the cultural heritage of the villagers. By incorporating these references, the poem explores the role of cultural identity in shaping beliefs, practices, and responses to adversity.
Overall, the religious and cultural references in “The Night of the Scorpion” contribute to themes such as superstition, unity, endurance, and cultural identity. They underline the influence of religious and cultural beliefs on individuals and communities, and how these beliefs and practices shape their actions, attitudes, and sense of belonging.
D. Answer these questions in detail.
1. What according to you is the central theme of the poem? How does it develop in the poem?
Ans: In “The Night of the Scorpion,” the central theme of the poem revolves around the power of community, unity, and endurance in the face of adversity. It explores how individuals come together, drawing strength from their shared beliefs and support for one another, ultimately triumphing over fear and pain.
The theme develops through various elements in the poem. Initially, the poem sets the scene of a village community facing the threat of a scorpion. The villagers gather around the mother, forming a circle and engaging in collective rituals, prayers, and incantations. This depiction highlights the power of unity and community in times of crisis.
As the poem progresses, the mother’s resilience and endurance become evident. Despite the intense pain caused by the scorpion’s sting, she remains silent and steadfast, enduring the suffering. Her silent strength serves as an inspiration to the villagers, reinforcing the theme of endurance and resilience.
Moreover, the poem emphasizes the role of traditional beliefs and superstitions in shaping the villagers’ actions and attitudes. Their adherence to ancient customs and rituals reflects their shared belief system, and they find solace and guidance in their cultural heritage.
Towards the end of the poem, the collective efforts and support of the villagers bear fruit as the scorpion’s venom loses its potency, and the mother is relieved from her pain. The concluding lines, “My mother only said/Thank God the scorpion picked on me/And spared my children,” highlight a sense of gratitude and triumph over adversity.
Overall, the central theme of community, unity, and endurance develops through the portrayal of communal rituals, the mother’s silent resilience, the reliance on traditional beliefs, and the collective relief experienced by the community. It underscores the idea that through collective strength, perseverance, and the power of shared beliefs, individuals can endure and overcome even the most challenging circumstances.
2. Comment on the poem’s use of various literary devices.
Ans: “The Night of the Scorpion” employs various literary devices to enhance its impact and meaning.
Here are some notable examples:
(a) Imagery: The poem utilizes vivid imagery to create a sensory experience for the readers. It employs descriptive language to depict the scorpion’s movements, the shadows on the walls, and the actions of the villagers. The imagery allows readers to visualize the scene and emotionally engage with the events described.
(b) Similes and Metaphors: The poem incorporates similes and metaphors to create striking comparisons. For instance, the scorpion’s eyes are compared to “two pools of darkness,” and the mother’s body is described as “a hill of paraffin.” These figurative language devices add depth and evoke powerful visuals, intensifying the reader’s experience.
(c) Repetition: The use of repetition is prominent in the poem. The phrase “they said” is repeated multiple times, emphasizing the spread of information and the communal response. The repetition of “thank God” at the end reinforces a sense of relief and gratitude, leaving a lasting impact on the readers.
(d) Symbolism: The poem employs symbolism to convey deeper meanings. The scorpion symbolizes a malevolent force, representing fear and danger. The shadows on the walls symbolize uncertainty and the power of imagination. These symbols enrich the thematic exploration and add layers of interpretation to the poem.
(e) Alliteration: The poem incorporates alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds, to create a musical quality. For example, phrases like “diabolic tail,” “swarms of flies,” and “twisted through and through” utilize alliteration to enhance the rhythm and sonic appeal of the poem.
(f) Enjambment: The use of enjambment, the continuation of a sentence or phrase across multiple lines without punctuation, creates a smooth and flowing rhythm in the poem. It allows ideas to flow seamlessly, contributing to the overall musicality and coherence of the poem.
(g) Contrast: The poem employs contrast to highlight the juxtaposition of various elements. It contrasts the physical pain of the scorpion’s sting with the emotional strength of the mother. It contrasts the external fear- inducing scorpion with the internal resilience and unity of the community. These contrasts create tension and emphasize the themes explored in the poem.
Overall, “The Night of the Scorpion” utilizes a range of literary devices, including imagery, similes, metaphors, repetition, symbolism, alliteration, enjambment, and contrast. These devices enrich the poem’s language, enhance its emotional impact, and contribute to the exploration of its themes.
3. How does the poem bring forth the strong sense of solidarity among the village folk of India?
Ans: The Night of the Scorpion” portrays a strong sense of solidarity among the village folk of India through various elements in the poem:
(a) Communal Rituals: The poem emphasizes the collective nature of the villagers’ response to the scorpion’s attack. They come together, forming a circle around the mother, and engage in communal rituals, prayers, and incantations. This communal participation in rituals showcases the shared belief system and the sense of solidarity within the community.
(b) Unity in Adversity: The poem highlights the unity and support exhibited by the villagers in the face of adversity. They stand united in their concern for the mother and actively participate in her well-being. The villagers’ actions and words reflect their shared empathy and a collective desire to help and protect one another.
(c) Mutual Care and Support: The poem underscores the villagers’ care and support for one another. They demonstrate their concern for the mother’s well-being and take immediate action to alleviate her suffering. The communal effort to find a remedy and the willingness to participate in rituals reveal a strong sense of community and mutual care.
(d) Shared Beliefs and Traditions: The poem highlights the influence of shared beliefs and traditions in fostering a sense of solidarity. The villagers’ adherence to ancient customs and rituals reflects their collective cultural heritage and provides them with a common ground for understanding and supporting one another.
(e) Gratitude and Relief: The concluding lines of the poem, “Thank God the scorpion picked on me/ And spared my children,” reinforce a sense of gratitude and relief. The mother’s expression of gratitude reflects not only her personal relief but also the collective relief experienced by the villagers, further solidifying their shared experience and unity.
Through these elements, “The Night of the Scorpion” depicts a strong sense of solidarity among the village folk of India. The poem emphasizes the collective response, the unity in adversity, mutual care and support, shared beliefs, and the overall sense of community that exists within the village. It portrays a bond that transcends individual concerns and showcases the strength and resilience of the community in coming together in times of need.
ADDITIONAL QUESTION & ANSWERS
A. Very Short Answer Type Question:
1. Why does the poem begin with the poet’s remembering the night?
Ans: The night in which the poet’s mother was stung by a scorpion had been a terrible one for him. It was the night when a superstitious culture made his mother suffer from a scorpion-sting which she could have escaped with the help of medicines. It was the night when the poet, a child at that time, witnessed the evil face of his society.
2. What forced the scorpion take shelter in the poet’s house?
Ans: It was a rainy night and water streamed down into the scorpion’s hole. Having been forced to abandon its flooded hole, the scorpion, without any intention to sting anyone, came to the poet’s house for shelter and warmth.
3. Under what circumstances did the scorpion sting the poet’s mother?
Ans: The scorpion had no intention to sting the poet’s mother so what happened was accidental and unintentional. It was probably the poet’s mother who walked over the scorpion in the dark kitchen and hurt it and the scorpion’s reaction was quite natural.
4. Why are the peasants compared to a swarm of flies?
Ans: The comparison is the poet’s expression of discontent with the peasants. He hated them because they made the night a hell for him, his father and most importantly, for his mother.
5. Who is the Evil One in the poem? Why is it evil?.
Ans: The Evil One is the scorpion that stung the poet’s mother. It is considered Evil because the people associated the sting of scorpions with that of the evil power.
B. Short & Long Answer Type Question:
1. Show the different qualities in the poet’s father and mother that are brought out in the poem.
Ans: The father is logical and scientific in his thinking and does not believe in superstitions and blind beliefs. Yet when his wife is bitten by the scorpion he is anything but logical. He tries out every curse and blessing, every possible antidote. He summons the holy man to perform his rites and even pours paraffin on the bitten to and ignites it. The mother suffers the bite of the scorpion. She groans and moans on the mat twisting and turning in pain. As soon as the poison loses its effect she thanks god for sparing her children. She epitomizes motherhood and like a typical Indian mother is selfless in her love for her children.
2. What do you mean by Sum of evil?
Ans: The sum of evil, as understood by the peasants in the story, is a concept that each sin committed by a person is stored in the book of virtue to judge a person’s eligibility to enter Heaven.
3. What kind of peace and understanding did the villagers have in common?
Ans: Although the villagers were sad to see the mother suffering, the understanding that it was doing some good to both her body and her spirit – brought peace on their faces. The peasants believed that the suffering would cleanse some of her sins of the poet birth or of the next birth. With her suffering the balance of evil in this world would be reduced. It would cleanse her soul and kill the spirit of desire which is the root cause of suffering in the world.
4. Comment on the ending of the poem, Night of the Scorpion?
Ans: The poem “Night of the Scorpion” by Nissim Ezekiel describes the pang of the poet’s mother, when she was stung by a scorpion. Through the whole poem, it is shown that she was crying because of the effectiveness of the pain. But after twenty hours, she was cured by empiric medicine produced by the poet’s father.
After her curing, she did say nothing of her anguish and suffering, but simply thanked God not because He relieved her pain, but because He saved her children from the stung of the Scorpion:
“Thank God the scorpion picked on me and spared my children.” Here the high didacticism of Indian motherhood is very vehemently expressed and also the devotional mentality of a rustic mother is clearly discernible.
5. What does the poem Night of the Scorpion say about a mother?
Ans: “Night of the Scorpion” is a poem by Nissim Ezekiel included the AQA Anthology.It starts in a house at night where it is raining and a scorpion, in order to take some shelter, comes to the house. This poem is about how the scorpion stung the poets, mother and how she escaped and the mother’s love for her children.
Night of the Scorpion remember the night my mother was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours of steady rain had driven him to crawl beneath a sack of rice.”
The poem open in a way that suggests reflection – the speaker remembers the night his mother was stung by a scorpion, which bit the mother because of its predatory impulse, while hiding beneath a bag of rice to escape from the rain. The speaker specifically remembers this night due to this event-namely, the mother getting bitten. The way in which the mother is bitten is also shown in ‘flash of diabolic tail’; the speaker manages to suggest that the scorpion is demonic with its “diabolic” tail, and emphasises its speed with the word flash. The scorpion then flees the scene and, thus, risks the rain again. A picture of a religious village is created by what the neighbours do to paralyse the scorpion.
Their reason for this is that they believe that as the scorpion moves, his poison moves in the blood of the mother. It is also implied that they live in a caring, close-knit village by the fact that the neighbours feel welcome at all. The speaker is displeased by their arrival, comparing them to flies as they veritably buzzed around the mother. They tried to provide reasons and many relied on superstition to guess what the problem was. The villagers tried to find the scorpion but they couldn’t. By saying.” With candles and with lanterns throwing giant scorpion shadows on the sun-baked walls.” The speaker is implying there is still evil haunting the house, even after the scorpion had left the house.
This could also be implying that the shadows of the various house hold utensils and other items are converted by the brain of the searchers into the shadow of a scorpion- as that is what they are looking for. Many things were tried to help relieve the mother’s pain but none worked. The speaker watches, helpless. The speaker’s father who was sceptic and rationalist, tried to save his wife by using powder, mixture, herbs, hybrid and even by pouring a little paraffin upon the bitten toe and put a match to it, this reflects to one of the village peasant saying, “May the sins of your previous birth be burned away tonight.” Which the father tries to do;Not for burning her sins but to burn away the poison residing inside the mother, which reflects her sins being atoned for.
The speaker watches the vain holy man performing his deceptive incantations but he cannot do anything to stop it. The peasants, finally accepting the fate of the mother, try to put a positive spin on the situation by saying that even if the mother died, her next life would be less painful, as she atoning for her future sins by enduring this pain. After twenty hours, the poison loses its sting and the mother is okay. A sign of her prevailing love and affection for her children is shown when she thanks God that she was stung and not her children. It came from a religious background and Nissim this poem trying to give the impression of anger, but also an underlying message of motherly love, along with a hint of culture and superstition “After twenty hours it lost its sting. My mother only said, Thank God the scorpion picked on me and spared my children.”