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The poem “A Stone’s Throw” is written by Elma Mitchell. The poem talks about the story of Mary Magdalene from The Holy Bible. The speaker is a man who is part of the crowd that is going to stone the woman for being touched by multiple men. But right before everything happens Jesus Christ intervenes and saves her life.
About the Poet
Elma Mitchel was born in 1919 in Airdrie, United Kingdom. She was a Scottish poet and was fluent in multiple languages, like Russian. She published many poems, including “The Poor Man in the Flesh”, “The Human Cage” and “Furnished Rooms”.
The poem is written in free verse. It is divided into 5 stanzas with different lengths.
We shouted out 'We've got her! Here she is! It's her all right '. We caught her. There she was -
The poem starts with the spears seemingly leading a group of people. They are following and searching for someone. In this stanza the persona shouts and tells everyone that they have found “her”.
The poem starts with the persona using “we”. This means that the speaker is not alone. He is accompanied by a group who is searching for the woman. They find and “catch” the woman.
A decent-looking woman, you'd have said, (They often are) Beautiful, but dead scared, Tousled- we roughed her up A little, nothing much And not the first time By any means She'd felt men's hands Greedy over her body - But ours were virtuous, Of course.
The persona then describes the woman and says that someone else would have thought of her as a “A decent-looking woman”. But she is not decent. The woman is very scared. The persona admits that they assaulted her and tousled her clothes but he says that it isn’t her first time as other men would have touched her as well. Their hands would’ve been greedy on her but the group’s hands were virtuous.
The persona finds the woman attractive. He says that “you” might have found her good-looking. He does so to distance himself from the other men. But in the next line he says that she was “beautiful”. The persona himself is physically attracted to her beauty. He says that she was “tousled”, this means that they put their hands on her and assaulted her which led to her clothes being crumpled. The next lines show that the men in the group used this opportunity to let their hands roam over her body, but the persona says that the woman must be used to this by now because she has been touched by many men before. But the persona brings in a distinction which separates him and his group from others. He says that the touch of other men were greedy but their touch was pious and virtuous, which is double-faced lie.
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.
The persona then describes what happens next. The group starts hitting and assaulting the woman but the speaker says that the touches are “love-bites” compared to what is going to happen next. Next they are going to hurl stones at her, beat her and even rape her. And all of this is justifiably right according to the persona. According to the man, this kind of justice is right and also “tastes” good.
The stanza shows the hypocrisy of the group. The man says that if their fingers grazed her skin and bruised her it would still be love-bites compared to what could happen next. The persona takes on sexual undertones to describe the situation. Next would come a “hail of kisses of stone”. This is a gruesome image of the woman being stoned to death. The last act of violence against the woman would be “frigid rape”. This shows how the entire situation is treated like a pleural act for the group where they give the woman love-bites, kisses and ultimately rape her. All of this seems right to the man as he is doling out justice. The last lines show that the man is not doing this for any moral purpose but only to satiate his own hunger as this kind of justice would taste good to him.
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.
But right before everything happens, a Guru intervenes and stops the commotion. This Guru is implied to be Jesus Christ. According to the persona Jesus spoils the whole thing. Jesus speaks to the woman by sitting down on the ground and being at her level. He writes something for her in the dirt that the group couldn’t see. And then both the woman and Jesus turn towards the group and look at them with eyes of judgment that make the people look inwards and judge themselves.
The persona’s glee is cut short when Jesus Christ arrives. He calls him by several names. He calls him a “Guru”, a “Preacher” and a “God-merchant”. All these labels are called out with contempt as the speaker’s justice trail is cut short by him. He says that this guru spoke to the woman, which the speaker considers a taboo because of his discriminatory attitudes against her. The interrupt or sit on the ground and according to the speaker stoops to her level to speak to her. The man then writes something in the dust, this writing could be anything as it is not eligible for the mob and the speaker. The man talks with the woman and sees something that the rest of them couldn’t see. Here this “something” could be as simple a thing as treating the woman as a human being worthy of life and respect. The mob and the persona were unable to treat her with respect and dignity and were unable to even look at her as a human being. So when the woman and the man turned to look at the mob and the persona, it forced them to look inside and judge themselves.
We walked away Still holding stones That we may throw Another day Given the urge.
After everything, the mob decides to leave and go away but they still hold the stones in their hands, ready to throw them another day.
Looking inwards and judging themselves allowed them to see that their actions were unjust and immoral. This makes the crowd leave feeling dejected as they were unable to satiate their desire to hurt the woman. But they still hold the stones in their hands. This symbolizes that they will be ready to throw the stones again at some other person they see unworthy or impure.