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A Stone’s Throw by Elma Mitchell

The poem is based on the Biblical story of Jesus saving the prostitute from
being stoned by the religious authority at the time. The persona is a participant
in dragging the woman to be stoned and relates the incident to the reader. This
is unique about the poem as the persona is a character that is viewed in a
negative manner. The poem is narrative with short stanzas except for when
Jesus is introduced to the story.

The poem begins with the shouts of the persona that they have caught the
woman. As the persona narrates his words are punctuated by his thoughts in
brackets, “A decent-looking woman, you'd have said, (They often are)”. The
poet uses a pun to describe her treatment by the men, “we roughed her up”. It
refers to the treatment of her and also to sex as she is a prostitute. Many of the
words use in this poem have a sexual connotation e.g. rape, kisses, love bites,
tastes so good. The persona’s self-righteousness is shown in him convincing
himself that the ill treatment of the woman is justified and forgiven because
they were righteous, “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 wounds
that will be caused by stoning are referred metaphorically to love bites because
the persona and those with him are convinced that a prostitute is by nature an
evil woman fixated on having sex.

The readers get another glimpse into the mind of the persona who is joyful in
carrying out the stoning, “For justice must be done Specially when It tastes so
good.” The persona and the mob are not concerned about what forced the
woman to become a prostitute or even her customers who would also be guilty
with her, they are only concerned about feeling good about themselves for
executing the woman. The poet points out the danger and hypocrisy of religious
authority that use faith as a means to maintain power and oppress and extort the
weaker segments of society. Some questions must be raised about the incident,
why is the prostitute targeted? What evidence do they have against her? Was a
fair trial done? Are not her customers guilty of fornication and adultery?

At the beginning of the sixth stanza, Jesus is not clearly named but the reader
sees the frustration of the persona in him intervening of the planned stoning of
the woman, “And then - this guru,
Preacher, God-merchant, God-knows-what - Spoilt the whole thing”. This is the
difference between the persona and Jesus. The persona is lustful, sadistic and a
hypocrite while Jesus is forgiving and understanding. At the end of this stanza
there is the repetition of ‘eyes’. Judgement is no linger for the woman but the
woman judges the persona and the persona is forced to judge himself, this stops
the planned execution, “He turned his eyes on us, Her eyes on us, Our eyes
upon ourselves”. The persona and those like him are seen for who they really
are and their religious appearance can no longer hide their true selves.

However in the final stanza, it is revealed that there is not permanent change in
attitude and behaviour but only a temporary change due to the hypocrisy of the
people being exposed, “We walked away Still holding stones That we may
throw Another day Given the urge”.
A crowd has caught a woman. The persona implies to the reader that the woman
is not decent. She was beautiful, but scared because she had gotten 'roughed up'
a little by the crowd. The persona states that the woman has experienced men's
hands on her body before, but this crowd's hands were virtuous.

He also makes a proviso that if this crowd bruises her, it cannot be compared to
what she has experienced before. The persona also speaks about a last assault
and battery to come. He justifies this last assault by calling it justice, and it is
justice that feels not only right, but good. The crowd's 'justice' is placed on hold
by the interruption of a preacher, who stops to talk to the lady.

He squats on the ground and writes something that the crowd cannot see.
Essentially, the preacher judges them, thereby allowing the lady to also judge
the crowd, leading to the crowd inevitably judging itself. The crowd walks away
from the lady, still holding stones [which can be seen as a metaphor for
judgments] that can be thrown another day.

Literary Devices
The persona is making the point that the lady was in fact NOT decent looking.

This device is particularly effective because the word 'kisses' is used. Kiss
implies something pleasant, but it is actually utilized to emphasize something
painful that has happened to the lady; she was stoned.

Title: The title of the poem is itself a pun on two levels. A stone's throw is used
by many people in the Caribbean to describe a close distance. eg. "She lives a
stone's throw away". The other use of the title is to highlight the content of the
poem. It is a figurative stoning, or judging, of a woman.

(biblical) The content of the poem alludes to the story of Mary Magdalene in
the Christian Bible. See John 8 v 5-7.

Lines 13-15: These lines show that the men who were ‘holding stones’ believe
they are more morally upright than the other men with whom the woman
One would think that men with ‘virtuous’ hands would have only pure thoughts,
but these men intend to stone the woman , who seems utterly defenceless. Also,
images of cruelty are used, such as ‘bruised’, ‘kisses of stone’, ‘battery’ and
‘frigid rape’.

The tone of the poem is mixed. At times it is almost braggadocios, then it
becomes sarcastic, moving to scornful.

Discrimination- The poor treatment the persona receives by the men in the
poem as a result of her profession.
Appearance vs reality
Power and Powerlessness