Essay 1

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In “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop, the narrator attempts to understand the relationship between humans and nature and finds herself concluding that they are intertwined due to humans’ underlying need to take away from nature, whether through the act of poetic imagination or through the exploitation and contamination of nature. Bishop’s view of nature changes from one where it is an unknown, mysterious, and fearful presence that is antagonistic, to one that characterizes nature as being resilient when faced against harm and often victimized by people. Mary Oliver’s poem also titled “The Fish” offers a response to Bishop’s idea that people are harming nature, by providing another reason as to why people are harming nature, which is due to how people are unable to view nature as something that exists and goes beyond the purpose of serving human needs and offers a different interpretation of the relationship between man and nature. Oliver believes that nature serves as subsidence for humans, both physically and spiritually. Unlike Bishop who finds peace through understanding her role in nature’s plight and acceptance at the merging between the natural and human worlds, Oliver finds that through the literal act of consuming nature can she obtain a form of empowerment that allows her to become one with nature. Throughout the first half of the poem, Bishop describes the fish as an inanimate object, as reflected in her comparisons, which uses objects to describe the fish as shown when she says, “Here and there his brown skin hung in strips like ancient wallpaper…”. (9-11) She chooses a wallpaper to describe the skin of the fish in order to accurately portray its battered and worn state; her decision to compare the fish to an inorganic ... ... middle of paper ... ... to understand one another. Furthermore, while both poets encase aspects of the fish into their poems, Bishop’s interpretation of the fish places it at a distance because her block of text loaded with descriptions is how she sees the fish, which gives the image that she just feels pity for the fish but doesn’t really feel the need to delve deeper in understanding the essence of the fish. By contrast, Oliver’s interpretation of the fish embodies its’ essence because she does not rely on its appearance to understand it but rather when she consumes the fish, its’ spiritual aura merges within herself. Oliver captures the soul of the fish within her poetic writing as evidenced by the constant alliteration with “f” letter words including, “first fish”, “flailed” , “flesh”, “fall”, “feed”, and “feverish”, which give the image that the poem is alive and is the fish.

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