Imagery In Elizabeth Bishop's Poem 'The Fish'

717 Words3 Pages
Many know how the classic fisherman’s story goes: patient waiting that results in the catching of a fish, but not just any fish. A huge fish. A fish bigger than expected or imagined. A “whopper”, so to speak. However, in her poem “The Fish,” poet Elizabeth Bishop rejects the common sequence of events that occur within the fisherman’s tale and instead, through vivid imagery, reverent diction, and contradictory comparisons, pushes the assertion that even the seemingly weak and battered deserve respect for their survival and the hardships they have endured. Bishop evokes emotion within her readers with the speaker’s detailed description of the fish. It is “battered” and “homely” and its “brown skin [hangs] in strips” (8-10). The description plays…show more content…
Bishop employs reverent diction to convey the respect the speaker develops for the fish. She depicts the fish as “venerable” and admits that she “[admires]” the creature as she looks upon its “sullen face” (8, 45). She begins to focus less heavily on the ugly and repellent physical attributes the fish has and instead begins to think highly of it. The height of her esteem for the fish is apparent at the turn of the poem as the speaker describes the five “grim, wet, and weaponlike...hooks grown fimly in his mouth” (50, 54-55). With the word “weaponlike”, the speaker portrays the fish as a soldier; he is a fighter to endure the pain and weight of the very thing that would have brought death upon him. The hooks, though unsightly and painful, are as precious as formal commendation for bravery or survival; they are “like medals with their ribbons frayed and wavering”(61-62). She respects the fish’s capacity for survival into old age, noting the “beard of wisdom” he has acquired from enduring to this very moment (63). In “The Fish”, Elizabeth Bishop expresses the impact of admiration for one’s survival of the trials and tribulations that life brings one’s way. Though aged and, at first sight, not deserving of respect or admiration, the adversity and pain that one endures makes
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