Elizabeth Bishop's Poem 'The Fish'

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In Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Fish,” a fisherman catches an imposing fish. As the fisherman holds the magnificent creature out of the water with his/her ‘hook fast in the corner of the fish’s mouth,’ he/she begins to admire the fish for having obviously fought long and hard all its life (Bishop 3). In a sense, the speaker compares the fish to a war veteran who had seen one too many battles. On at least five occasions, five other fishermen had attempted to reel-in the beast given the “five old pieces of fish line” and “their five big hooks” embedded in its mouth (Bishop 51). Bearing this in mind, the speaker thinks of the fish-line and hooks as battle-scars and consequently, looks upon the fish as a skilled survivor rather than a regular,…show more content…
For me, the song deals with sadness, defeat, loss, and contentment. It takes on a sad tone because it depicts a man sitting “on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away” who seems to be taking life in stride (Redding 5). Much like the ‘fish’ in the poem, the man has not necessarily given up on life, but rather has found peace after enduring life’s trials and tribulations. More importantly, there is a semblance of misfortune and hardship between the song and poem in that both the ‘fish’ and the man appear to have experienced life’s trials, yet, as a result of their misfortune have found peace and contentment. In the poem “The Fish,” the fish is characterized as an old ‘battered and homely’ creature that has, near the end of its life, stopped fighting and accepted defeat (Bishop 8). While the poem clearly expresses the fish’s submissive nature, it gives no indication of the fish’s unwillingness to continue on living. Like the poem, the man in the song appears to have experienced much hardship. In addition, the man does not think “nothing’s gonna change” for the better, and as a result simply chooses to take life as it comes. On the whole, both the poem and the song express a strong sense of sadness and
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