Poem Analysis “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop

616 words | 3 page(s)

The poem The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop is an example of poetic literature that is intended for raising ecological awareness of the reader. The narrator goes fishing, and the narration dwells on the situation that occurred on a specific day when she caught a big old fish and was reviewing it having it half out of the water beside her boat. The poem is filled with descriptions and, as it is an imagery, it allows the readers to visualize the action in the sea, while the narrating fisherman is bonding with the catch, admiring its size and suggested history.

The Fish is overwhelmed with the number of figures of speech used in it, for example, similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration (not too overused or obvious), and, hyperbole, etc. By using vivid imagery and similes, Elizabeth Bishop ensured her poem to become a proof that even a common event like fishing can be portrayed with beauty, astonishment, and respect. Furthermore, the main idea of the poem goes way deeper than simple description of a fisherperson and the catch, but instead it shows how a person starts respecting nature and a living being, and thus, releases the fish being unable to harm it. Besides, environmental issue is emphasized, referring to ‘terrible oxygen’ and rainbow caused by the oil spillage out of the rusted engine.

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The applied imagery is quite efficient, as it allows readers to visualize the events from the first lines of the poem as they are provided with an explicit and thorough description of the fish. Bishop applies personification when describing fish as a ‘he’ and featuring him as ‘homely’ and ‘venerable’. Comprehension of the fish is changing over the poem: at first it was scary with its ‘sullen face’, but at the end it gained fisherperson’s respect due to his experience and ‘beard of wisdom’. The fish is used as a symbol of mutual coexistence and interdependency of humans and animals. Simile is used when depicting the skin of the fish, as the strips of skin are compared to ‘ancient wallpaper’, and swim bladder as a ‘pink peony’. Among other figures of speech was alliteration, which, unlike other poetry, was not too obvious, for example, ‘the big bones and the little bones, / the dramatic reds and blacks’, and ‘skin in strips’, etc.

Hyperbolised ‘weaponlike’ image of the fish is supported by its metaphoric description of his ‘aching jaw’ with leftovers of five broken hooks in it. And again, the author uses similes to intensify visualization of the fish and his motionless struggle for life: he is shown as an experienced creature with rich history of encounters with humans, and the broken hooks in his jaw that are like medals proving him to be a fighter. Instead of active actions, the fish won his life from the fisherperson only by his appearance. Analogy of fish and the rented boat that built up in fisherperson’s imagination, and the oil-based rainbow on the water overwhelms the fisherperson, resulting in the decision to release the fish.

To conclude, Bishop’s The Fish is not a common poem filled with alliterations and metaphors, but it is a striking example of evolution of the relationship between the nature, living beings, and humans. It can be comprehended literally, but the author intended it to be regarded as analogy for the global environmental issues. The main message of the poem was to convey mutual interactions and coexistence between people and the nature, and all negative effects that humans make on flora and fauna. Regardless of all inhumane activities, like fishing and hunting, water and air pollution, animals are still struggling for their survival and manage to stay alive disregarding any human actions.

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