Psychoanalyzing “the Fish”

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Psychoanalyzing “The Fish”

“Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure. When you have exhausted that last dream and you find it leaves you barren or empty” -G. K Chesterton

I begin with a quote by the renowned G.K Chesterton for a few different reasons. I believe that great suffering and pain can bring forth immense joy. The following poem is not a poem of pleasure, but one of pain. My hope is that in my analysis I do not come across as judgmental of the author’s potential happiness and quality of life, but rather, open a window to the potential pain and sadness that is displayed throughout her writing. The poem entitled The Fish written by Elizabeth Bishop, has typically been read as a beautiful description of a story. Most people find meaning in the typical fishing story with the twist being the catcher of the fish grows mysteriously attached to the fish, and decides to let it go. It is a beautiful and strange poem indeed, but perhaps the author had deeper repressed motives behind this elegantly woven poem. Through Terry Eagleton’s text entitled Literary Theory, I will be taking psychoanalytical approach to the poem. My intention is to look critically at the poem and attempt to, as Eagleton writes, “tell us something about how literary texts are actually formed, and reveal something of the meaning of that formation.” (Eagleton 155)

To begin, I want to take a quick look at the life of Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop was born in Worcester, Massachusetts on February 8, 1911. Her father passed away when she was only 8 months old. Bishop’s mother became mentally ill and eventually was institutionalized in 1916. This left her orphaned at a very young age, and she went on to live with her grandparents in Nova Scotia. Elizabeth and her mother were never reunited. The rest of her story, while interesting, is largely unimportant according to Freudian theory of psychoanalysis. What is important to...
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