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CSEC English B: A Stone's Throw by Elma Mitchell Analysis

Updated: Jan 11, 2021




A Stone's Throw

Elma Mitchell

We shouted out

'We've got her! Here she is!

It's her all right '.

We caught her.

There she was -

A decent-looking woman, you'd have said,

(They often are)

Beautiful, but dead scared,

And not the first time

By any means

She'd felt men's hands

Greedy over her body -

But ours were virtuous,

Of course.

And if our fingers bruised

Her shuddering skin,

These were love-bites, compared

To the hail of kisses of stone,

The last assault

And battery, frigid rape,

To come

Of right.

For justice must be done

Specially when

It tastes so good.

And then - this guru,

Preacher, God-merchant, God-knows-what -

Spoilt the whole thing,

Speaking to her

(Should never speak to them)

Squatting on the ground - her level,

Writing in the dust

Something we couldn't read.

And saw in her

Something we couldn't see

At least until

He turned his eyes on us,

Her eyes on us,

Our eyes upon ourselves.

We walked away

Still holding stones

That we may throw

Another day

Given the urge.

Summary

The poem alludes to the story of Mary Magdalene in the Bible (John 8:3-11), highlighting themes of religion, violence, sexism and hypocrisy. The persona is addressing some sort of unknown audience who he either wants to convince or shares his point of view. He appears to be a misogynist, objectifying the woman who is the subject of the poem and the victim of the abuse of the persona. The persona stereotypes the woman as a harlot, and considers his assault of the woman to be righteous as a result. The recounting of this tale of violence by the persona is laced with glee, self-righteousness and sexual overtones. As the members of the village 'rough her up,' the persona notes callously that she had felt men's hands greedy over her body before. There is a sense of irony throughout the poem due to the assertion of the persona that they, assaulting this woman are more virtuous than the woman herself or any man with whom she had been with. However, as the persona and presumably a group of others in the village (as suggested by the use of 'we') prepare to exact 'justice' upon this woman through stoning her to death, a guru/preacher (Jesus) 'spoils their fun' by speaking to the woman. He sees a sort of humanity within the woman which the persona cannot and judges them, letting the woman judge them, and therefore triggering introspection in the surrounding crowd. They now leave, still holding stones- and their judgements against her- which they hope to throw another day given the urge.

The tone of the poem is nonchalant, callous and condescending. The mood is violent.


Analysis

"We shouted out, 'We've got her! Here she is! It's her all right '. We caught her."

The persona begins with the use of the pronoun 'we' to show that he was accompanied by at least one other person. This could be in an attempt to share accountability, but it is more likely a display of the involvement of multiple pursuers in search of this woman. The subsequent lines are punctuated with exclamation points to show their excitement. 'We've got her' shows a triumphant conquering of this woman who has apparently evaded them for a while. 'Here she is' gives the impression of exhibiting her for all to see, like a trophy or an elusive animal. 'It's her all right' and 'we caught her' echo that triumph in capturing the woman.


"A decent-looking woman, you'd have said, (They often are)"

The persona evidently sees the woman as physically attractive, but uses the phrase 'you'd have said' to somewhat distance himself from admitting to the idea of finding her attractive. He continues to say 'they often are' showing that he simply classifies her as part of a group rather than as an individual. She is made to be only a stereotype.


"Beautiful, but dead scared,"

The persona again reaffirms the fact that the woman looks beautiful even though she is obviously deathly afraid.


"Tousled - we roughed her up A little, nothing much"

The word tousled here suggests that her clothing is slightly ruffled or her hair is disheveled, as though playing around. The persona goes on to say that they 'roughed her up a little, nothing much', a euphemism, insinuating that they didn't use any excessive force in capturing her. His version of the tale is obviously a lie.


"And not the first time By any means She'd felt men's hands Greedy over her body - "

These lines show that the men took the opportunity to let their hands roam around the woman's body. The persona makes a point of expressing that it wasn't the first time something like this would have happened to her, so it wasn't out of the ordinary. This also insinuates that she was a prostitute or a adulteress given to such promiscuity. The use of the word 'greedy' suggests a violent ravaging of the woman's body by these men who hope to sate a hunger by molesting this scared woman. They likely had long wanted to do so, but had neither the audacity nor the opportunity before.


"But o