Imagery and Irony in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish”

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Imagery and Irony in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish” Small details are instrumental in seeing the bigger picture. This is apparent when reading “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop. Most often the reader experiences visual imagery in poetry. In this poem the reader encounters visual, auditory, and sensory imagery. “The Fish” is filled with minute details that paint a picture for the reader. With each new element that is introduced, it becomes easier to visualize the fish. The speaker is able to show the reader the beauty as well as the ugliness of this creature with her vivid imagery. The imagery used is so distinct that the reader can envisage being the fisherman and catching this fish. Another important element involved in this poem is irony. The reader might ask “why would the speaker take the time to catch the fish, only to set it free”? To begin it is important to show the differentiation of the types of imagery used in this poem. As stated above imagery is the key aspect to this poem. The first aspect of imagery to examine is visual imagery. The speaker begins the poem by introducing the reader to the fish by saying “I caught a tremendous fish” (1). With the use of the word tremendous, it is easy to visualize a large fish. The next lines that create an image are “He hung a grunting weight, / battered and venerable, / and homely” (7-9). An illustration of a heavy, beat-up, ancient, and ugly fish is created in the readers mind by those three lines. The speaker then says; “His brown skin hung in strips, / like ancient wall-paper” (10-11). In this description it is easy to imagine the skin of the fish being rough, scaly and dark colored. The imagery begins to become more defined as the poem progresses. For instance, she states “He ... ... middle of paper ... .... There are important elements used throughout the poem such as; imagery, and irony that make this poem so interesting. Although the poem is interesting it does leave the reader wanting more. With that said, there are many questions left unanswered to the reader that may never be answered. For instance; why would the speaker take the time to catch the fish, only to set it free? Why did the fish not fight back after the many battles it had fought and won? Is the speaker victorious, or is the fish the real winner? Why would the speaker feel victorious for catching a fish that never gave her a fight? In many poems there are hidden meanings to be deciphered. This is true for “The Fish” as well as countless other poems. Discovering these meanings is part of the enjoyment a reader takes when reading. The answers are there to find, it just takes the use of imagination.

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