Analysis of The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop Essay

Analysis of The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop Essay

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A poem without any complications can force an author to say more with much less. Although that may sound quite cliché, it rings true when one examines “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop. Elizabeth’s Bishop’s poem is on an exceedingly straightforward topic about the act of catching a fish. However, her ability to utilize thematic elements such as figurative language, imagery and tone allows for “The Fish” to be about something greater. These three elements weave themselves together to create a work of art that goes beyond its simple subject.
The first element to analyze when looking at “The Fish” is figurative language. The reader is drawn to this element because of its heavy emphasis throughout the poem. Elizabeth Bishop profusely uses similes with the intention of heightening the sensation of fishing. She writes:
[...] Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full blown roses (9-14)
In six lines of poetry the author is able to cram three similes all comparing the outer look of a fish to wallpaper. As anyone who has held a trout or a salmon can attest to the natural colors on these animals are not necessarily the brightest. A very good word to describe the browns on a fish are “drab” which makes wallpaper an excellent comparison for multiple reasons. First off, the comparison creates an accurate picture for the readers’ imagination of what the actual caught fish in the poem looks like. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, using the word “wallpaper” helps create a connection for the reader between boringness and objects from the domestic sphere. Throughout her entire poem, Elizabeth Bishop champions nature’s beauty through her...


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...m the “battered and venerable and homely” fish is now a decorated war hero who has fought many battles. The speaker always had respect for the fish but at the end her admiration is so outstanding that she feels obligated to honor it. The final declaration is, “And I let the fish go” (76). This is the culmination of all the previous dialogue and shows the speaker’s utmost respect for the fish and how it would be inhumane of her to kill it.
“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop is an excellent poem that goes beyond its straightforward subject. She vividly describes the act of catching a fish while also utilizing the thematic elements of figurative language, imagery and tone to bring many more ideas into the picture. Overall “The Fish” is a poem that champions the beauty of nature while also putting forth a negative connotation on all things artificial through a simple topic.

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