Imagery and Diction in The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop Essay

Imagery and Diction in The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop Essay

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Imagery and Diction in The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop


Elizabeth Bishop’s use of imagery and diction in the poem “The
Fish,” is meant to support the themes of observation and the deceptive
nature of surface appearance which, through the course of the poem, lead
the speaker to the important realization that age is not a negative
process.
Imagery and diction are the cornerstone methods implemented in
this poem. The title of the poem itself dictates the main message Bishop
wishes to convey regarding the process of age. A fish is a creature that
has preceded the creation of man on this planet. Therefore, Bishop
supplies the reader with a subject that is essentially constant and
eternal, like life itself. In further examination of this idea, the
speaker is in relation to the fish, very young which helps introduce the
theme of deceptive appearances in conjunction with age by building off
the notion that youth is ignorant and quick to judge. Bishop’s initial
description of the fish is meant to further develop this theme by
presenting the reader with a fish that is "battered," "venerable," and
"homely." Bishop compares the fish to “ancient wallpaper.” Even without
the word ancient preceding it, the general conception of wallpaper is
something that fades into the background. One doesn’t take much notice
of it. To add to this impartial picture, the fish is brown, the
signature color for dullness. “Shapes like full-blown roses stained and
lost through age” (lines 14-15,) further cement the image of something
with little time left. Full blown roses conjure the image of a flower
whose petals are at the stage of falling off. This image isn’t even
afforded the color and vibrancy usually associated with flowers for
B...


... middle of paper ...


...nt in her growing relationship with the fish. She creates, first, an
image of a helpless captive and the reader is allowed to feel sorry for
the fish and even pity his situation as the speaker does. The narrator’s
relationship with the fish then grows to one of personal regard as she
engages in further study and is able to look past her initial
observation. The parting image of the rainbow offers a perfect way to
drive home the process of aging as a dignified and even celebratory act.
Not only is it a very optimistic image of color and gaiety, but the
rainbow is traditionally paired with the concept of treasure once the
end of it is reached. When applied to the intended message of the poem,
it may be interpreted that Bishop is implying that nearing the end of
one’s life is like nearing the end of the rainbow and accepting a reward
for a life well lived.

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