The Fish By: Elizabeth Bishop

Essay by beckjainUniversity, Bachelor'sA, December 2007

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Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish"

Elizabeth Bishop is a poet that is often admired for her vivid descriptive poetry. Her interest in reading and writing came early in life as she suffered from several illnesses that caused her to spend many hours alone. (Gale) Many critics admire Bishop's objectivity "because she was interested in viewing details spontaneously, without imposed rationalizations, in the manner of a naturalist" (Gale). Bishop is also known for writing poems about ordinary experiences that "convey subtle revelations" (Gale). One excellent example of this can be seen in her poem, "The Fish." The poet's observation in this poem not only creates an image of the fish for the reader, but it also expands the scope of the poet's appreciation for the fish.

"The Fish" is a narrative poem in which the poet discovers the beauty in nature. The poem displays Bishop's use of rhetorical and sound devices as well as tone, metaphor, symbolism, personification, simile, and imagery.

While the poem seems to be about the simple experience of catching a fish, it turns out to be much more.

The poet sets the tone of the poem by using very short line lengths. This represents the poet's short thoughts she experienced while fishing. This structure also captures our attention.

Perhaps the most striking feature of this poem is the poet's careful attention to detail. For example, we are told, "He didn't fight./He hadn't fought at all" (5-6). This causes us to feel sympathy for the fish almost immediately. Additionally, the poet tells us the fish was "battered and venerable/and homely" (7-8). An example of the poet's use of simile can be seen when we are told the fish's "brown skin hung in strips/like ancient wallpaper," (10-11) and was shaped "like full-brown roses/stained and lost through age (14-15). These images...