Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel and Tatamkhulu Essay Example
Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel and Tatamkhulu Essay Example

Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel and Tatamkhulu Essay Example

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 6 (1525 words)
  • Published: September 21, 2017
  • Type: Essay
View Entire Sample
Text preview

In this essay I will compare two poems from different cultures: "Night of the Scorpion" by Nissim Ezekiel and "Nothing's Changed" by Tatamkhulu Africa. Both poems convey a sense of poverty, but while in "Night of the Scorpion" the neighbors unite and support each other, in "Nothing's Changed" the community remains divided due to racism.

Nissim Ezekiel is known as a pioneer of the modernist movement in India and is a renowned poet. One of his famous works, "Nothings Changed," is an autobiographical poem. On the other hand, Tatamkhulu Afrika resided in District 6 of Cape Town, a vibrant community where people of different races and beliefs coexisted harmoniously. Afrika expressed a strong sense of belonging to this place. In contrast, "Night of the Scorpion" takes place in a disadvantaged area.

Nissim Ezekiel's choice of vocabulary in his poem portrays the villagers' dietar


y restrictions, as evident in the phrase "sacks of rice." This indicates their reliance on inexpensive and flavorless food options. Additionally, Ezekiel paints a vivid picture of poverty by comparing the influx of peasants to swarms of flies. This simile serves to highlight the villagers' substandard living conditions, characterized by heat, uncleanliness, and unsanitary environments. The mention of flies further contributes to the overall impression of poor hygiene.

Again, the village's impoverishment is clearly shown with the use of candles and lanterns as substitutes for electricity. This implies an environment akin to that of a developing country where individuals must depend on their own sources of light like candles. Nissim's "Night of the Scorpion" employs language that unmistakably signifies a poor backdrop. In the same vein, the poem "Nothings Changed" underscores the strikin

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

disparity in living standards between two distinct races.

For instance, he describes the restaurant as "the new up-market, haute causine," giving the impression of a luxurious dining establishment. Additionally, the mention of "port Jackson trees" implies that these imported trees from Australia further underline the restaurant's expensive and high-end nature. Furthermore, he mentions a "guard at the gatepost, whites only inn," which undoubtedly reinforces the notion of exclusivity in this restaurant. By employing measures such as hiring a guard to prevent black Africans from entering, this restaurant demonstrates its commitment to being exclusive.

The poet deliberately contrasts these living conditions with the poor "working man's cafe". The poet states, "take it with you, eat it at a plastic table top, wipe your fingers on your jeans", aiming to create a dirty, poor, and unhygienic atmosphere. This is similar to the atmosphere depicted in night of the scorpion. Furthermore, the poet disgusts and shocks readers by comparing it to the fancy restaurant described earlier, stating, "spit a little on the floor: it's in the bone".

The poet attempts to depict the black Africans or working class side. To achieve this, the poet mentions "bunny chows" similar to "Port Jackson trees" previously mentioned. This deliberate choice aims to emphasize a specific living standard. However, unlike the expensive portrayal before, this time it is focused on creating the notion of a cheap and greasy food like bunny chows, which are bread stuffed with pilchards or something similar, resembling a burger for the poor. The cultural differences in the two poems are noticeable, particularly regarding societal norms.

In "Nothings Changed", the poet talks about the feeling of not belonging and being an

outsider. He uses the phrase 'we know where we belong' to convey this sense of exclusion. Although the explicit segregation signs are no longer present like they used to be, only the wealthier Caucasian individuals feel entitled to occupy certain spaces. This unspoken norm in the poet's culture reinforces the divide. On the other hand, in "Night of the Scorpion", there is a stark contrast in culture as everyone works together harmoniously. The poet mentions how they said that the pain was "burned away tonight."

The community expresses their desire to reduce the suffering of the burning mother and alleviate her pain. In contrast, "Nothings Changed" portrays the "whites" as the perpetrators of suffering and discrimination towards the "blacks," showing their lack of action to rectify the situation. Additionally, the line "My mother only said Thank God the scorpion picked on me And spared my children" employs enjambment to create rhythmic lines and enhance poetic elements. This quote also demonstrates the mother's selflessness as she would rather endure the pain herself than see it inflicted upon her children.

However, it also demonstrates her practicality and acceptance of her destiny and cultural background. In "Nothings Changed," religion and the poet's beliefs are not extensively mentioned, whereas in "Night of the scorpion" - "flash of diabolic tail in the dark room" - the poet compares the scorpion to the devil, highlighting the community's fear and their religious nature.

The narrative implies the existence of a belief in reincarnation among the depicted community, as indicated by the line "the sins of your previous birth. May your suffering decrease the misfortunes of your next birth." This suggests that actions taken

in one's current life can influence their subsequent life. In addition, it underscores the protagonist’s practical disposition when she expresses gratitude to god for having her bear the scorpion sting instead of her children, demonstrating an unwavering faith even amid adversity and pain. While no specific religion is mentioned in the text, it nonetheless hints at an absence of religious bias within this community.

Contrasting with contemporary society, such circumstances appear unlikely to arise today. The poem titled "Night of the Scorpion" illustrates how adversities and traumatic experiences can foster unity amongst people; however, this may not necessarily hold true in places like England where communities tend to be more fragmented. Similarly, "Nothing's Changed", another poem portrays societal divisions and biases present within communities – upper classes are portrayed as condescending towards lower classes without extending assistance or support particularly towards those who are homeless.

Although racism still exists, society's perspective on it has evolved and matured since this poem was written in 1990. The poem itself also reflects this change in attitude through its structure. Unlike Night of the Scorpion, which is written in free verse with varying line lengths and no rhyme scheme, this poem showcases drastic differences. The first part is extensive and brimming with action, depicting the scorpions bite and the villagers' reaction. On the other hand, the second part, which illustrates the mother's response, is merely three lines long.

This may represent how the mother's painful experience seemed to stretch out in slow motion because he couldn't bear to witness her agony. The second part reflects the mother's indifference after the pain had passed, due to her pragmatic nature. This illustrates the cultural

acceptance of such events, yet the community still endeavors to exhaust every possible method, even if they do not truly believe in it. The father, despite being a "rationalist," resorts to desperate measures such as curses, blessings, powders, mixtures, herbs, and hybrids. Although the community knows it will eventually end and acknowledges it as a normal part of society.

The poem "Nothings Changed" is presented in six stanzas, each consisting of eight short lines, creating a sense of control and clarity in the poet's emotions. Similarly, the layout of "Nothings Changed" also follows six stanzas with eight fairly short lines.

This type of regularity in the layout creates a sense of control, as the poet exemplifies clarity in his emotions without sudden bursts of rage. I believe the poem is structured in this manner to mirror the poet's attitude. Despite expressing anger such as "burn for a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass," the poet maintains self-control and displays a slight sense of resignation, acknowledging the unlikelihood of significant change. Additionally, within this controlled structure, it is worth noting that sentence length varies from entire stanzas to mere two-word phrases.

While dissecting "Night of the Scorpion" and "Nothing's Changed", I found it fascinating to juxtapose these two pieces, considering not just their cultural variations but also in connection with our own society. It's intriguing to note the parallels and disparities between them. A common yet ironic theme that surfaces is how the community and neighbors, despite being sympathetic and ready to lend a hand, fall short of essential resources in "Night of the Scorpion". Similarly, although suffering depicted in "Nothing's Changed" greatly differs from that expressed

in "Night of the Scorpion", it becomes clear that this culture has ample means and resources to alleviate such hardship but deliberately chooses not to aid its people.

The similarity in poverty between the two cultures depicted by the poets is superficial. However, the differences extend to the attitude and tone of the poets. In "Nothings Changed," the poet expresses strong emotions of anger and sadness towards the prevailing racism, indicating a strong opinion on the matter. On the other hand, in "Night of the Scorpion," the poet narrates the poem with minimal emotion, as if recounting a story. This could be because such events are accepted as normal in his culture, whereas they would be considered extraordinary in ours.

Get an explanation on any task
Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds