TheFish by Bishop Elizabeth

Elizabeth’spoem “the fish” is a nice eye catching piece of art. From thebackground, Elizabeth Bishop was a fisherwoman. She is also aprolific writer who has received different awards due to her goodliterary works. Her works did not look at her personal life as manyof other writers do. She wanted to leave a legacy of her works ratherthan her detailed life history. She wrote this poem as she stayed atFlorida which to some extent it is a real encounter while fishing.

Thereader’s attention has been captured by the intimacy brought aboutby the user’s use of first person narration. The whole poem entailsgoing fishing using a boat that had been rented. She manages to catcha fish which she does pull it half way out. She uses the word‘venerable’ to refer to the fish which is alternatively used todescribe aged people who command respect. With this attribute, Bishopmanages to use anthropomorphizing which is the act of givingnon-humans human characters.

Thefish hangs and does not fight, and this astonishes the poet bringingin the stylistic feature of repetition, “He did not fight, He hadnot fought at all”. This calmness of the fish gives the poet apeaceful moment to scrutinize the fish. The poet creates a mentalpicture in the audience through vivid description of the fish. “Hewas old, a rough and peeling skin, seaweeds hanged from the stomachand sea-lice.”

Thepoet tries to look the fish as if engaging him. The fish moves itseyes but at no instance, it does not look at Bishop. The poet thereafter uses alliteration and assonance to add to the rhythm: ‘backedand packed with tarnished tinfoil.` While still scrutinizing thefish, Bishop notices five hooks hanging from the lower lip of thefish. There is clear evidence that the hooks have been hanging therefor a long time as they were firmly held by the skin which had nowgrown. Bishop uses a metaphor that the medals are symbols of warmedals. They are a representation of the battles the fish had beenengaged to and had won some while ago. According to the poet, shesees the hooks as a symbolism of experience and wisdom the fish hadachieved in its lifetime.

Useof imagery by the poet wipes the ugly old picture from the audiencesminds and paints a new look of the fish. She has also employedmetaphors and similes to bring the comparison of the fish skin to thefloral wallpaper and the hooks to war medals. These qualities paintnew looks of the fish from ugly and aged to beauty and venerable (Arpand Johnson 212).

Eventually,Bishop realizes that there is no need to try to communicate with thefish or the fish to stare back to her so that they can relate. Theage and marks of previous battles awe Bishop, and she realizes thereis no difference from herself or everyone else. Bishop concludes thatthe fish has struggled to survive in a world that is hostile, and hewas tired to retaliate.

Allthis while, the fish had been hanging, and the poet gets the concernand sees that the jaw of the fish must be aching. Bishop then becomesoverwhelmed with victory and everything around her became beautifulthan it looked as even the oil-silk in the boat turned to a spreadingrainbow. Bishop therefore carefully looks around the world aroundher, and this gives her more insights of the living conditions ofhumans.

Atthe conclusion, the poem ends in a jovial tone. There is clearlyevident as everything is transformed as the ancient rusty boat isfilled with victory. There is a repetition of victory. This givesemphasis on the fish catch by Bishop and the fish’s victory overthe past catches. Bishop then sets the fish free.

Inconclusion, the entire poem has greatly advocated for various virtuesand norms that should unite us human beings but not to tear us apart.As evident in the poem, there is the celebration of the sharedcapability of the fish and the poet to win over adversity. Therefore,the poet is calling for the audience not to celebrate the downfall oftheir fellows but sympathize with them and always rejoice in theirsuccess. At the start of the poem a tone of awe and respect due tothe poet’s liking for the aged fish, she has caught. But at theend, the tone switches to celebratory. There is pride in Bishop’scatch, and she gets delighted to be able to set free the survivor ofmany hardships he had fought vehemently (Graff, 331).

Thepoet has used different stylistic devices to bring forth his thematicconcerns to her audience which includes

Assonance.This is the repetition of vowel sounds in non-rhyming stressedsyllables near enough to each other in a poem to bring forth rhythm,“… backed and packed…”

Alliteration.This is the use of consonant sounds at the beginning of adjacentconnected words. It enhances the rhythmical and musicality of thepoem for example, “… tarnished tinfoil”.

Anthropomorphizing.This is ascribing non-human thing with human tributes, emotions andintentions. “You can call it a lip.” When referring to the mouthof the fish.

Metaphor.This is the comparison of one thing to another indirectly to anotherthing. This is implicated where the poet compares the skin of thefish to floral wallpaper, the barnacles to rosettes and a big bladderto a big peony.

Simile.This is the comparison of one thing to another with the use of theword such ‘as…as’ and like. About the poem, the poet says thatthe hooks hanged like war medals.

Vividdescription. This is how the poet expresses the characters and thelooks of something in the poem to create a picture in theiraudiences’ mind. When Bishop talks of his skin, ragged and peeling,infested with sea lice and barnacles and has seaweed hanging from hisstomach (Colibaba227).The descriptions create a picture of an aged fish and a worn out one.

Symbolism.This is the use of symbols to signify ideas by giving them meaningsthat are symbolic hence differ from their real meaning. The hooks inthe fish’s mouth are symbols of wisdom and experience during itslifetime

Conclusivelythe poet has met her desires to have her thematic concerns reach itsaudience through the various stylistic devices that have given thepoem the realism. They have made the poem acceptable to the societyand humorous thus the message reaching the audience in different waysand precisely.


Arp,Thomas R.and Johnson, Greg.&nbspPerrine`sLiterature: Structure, Sound and Sense&nbsp(10thed.). Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009.Print

Colibaba,Ştefan .&nbsp&quotTheNature of the Short Story: Attempts atDefinition&quot(PDF).&nbspSynergy&nbsp6&nbsp(2): 220–230,2010.Print

Graff,Richard.&nbsp&quotProseversus Poetry in Early Greek Theories of Style&quot.Rhetorica:A Journal of the History of Rhetoric&nbsp23&nbsp(4):303–35, 2005. Print