Summary of Nissim Ezekiel’s Night of the Scorpion

Night of the Scorpion is a poem written by Nissim Ezekiel.


The poet remembers the dark rainy night when his mother was stung by a scorpion. It was raining heavily, a scorpion had taken shelter, under a sack of rice. When the poet’s mother went to get rice from the granary, the scorpion bit her and disappeared into the rain.

The neighboring peasants came in large numbers with candles and lanterns. They chanted the name of God to paralyze the evil one, they wanted to stop the scorpion from moving. They believed the effect of the poison would increase with the movement of the scorpion. They wanted to kill it, but it wasn’t found anywhere.

The poet’s mother was in great pain. The people prayed that all the sins of her previous birth be burnt. They believed the world to be unreal and wanted the pain to absolve all her sins, and decrease the sufferings of the next birth also. More and more people walked in. The poet’s mother continued to suffer and was in great pain.

The villagers were superstitious, but the poet’s father was a disbeliever, he doubted everything especially the claims of religion. He was a rational person, his views were based on reason and logic. He tried every powder, mixture, herb, and amalgam of herbs and prayers. He poured a little paraffin upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.

The poet watched the flame feeding on his mother, he also watched the holy man trying to control the effect of poison with words in prayer or magic and performed his rites. After twenty hours the sting was lost, the poison became powerless and the mother recovered. She forgot all her sufferings and her pain. She thanked God, and was grateful that the scorpion had spared her children.

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