The Fish Analysis

Topics: Metaphor, Simile, Fish Pages: 8 (1531 words) Published: May 14, 2014

The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop
Bishop uses literary devices, especially similes, metaphors, tone, and imagery to convey her theme of admiration for survivors of life’s difficult battles, in this case the fish, although at first she failed to admire and appreciate the fish. Bishop also doesn’t realize how beautiful the fish is at first, but she eventually finds beauty in the fish.

Bishop’s tone of aloofness in lines 5-10 shows that first she is disappointed in what she thought was a big catch.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
Battered and vulnerable
and homely.
She states that the fish “didn’t fight. He hadn’t fought at all” conveying a surprised tone, like she thought it would be more of a struggle to catch such a good fish, and she almost sounds disappointed that the catch was so effortless. She refers to the fish as “battered and vulnerable” showing that she thinks of the fish as weak, and proving that she doesn’t at first realize how much the fish has been through and accomplished in life. At this point she feels more pity than she does admiration for the fish.

As the poem goes on and the author continues to observe the fish, the details become more elaborate, through the use of similes the reader can gather that the author is slowly starting to appreciate the fish.

His brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
In lines 11-14 above Bishop uses three similes, the first comparing the skin of the fish to ancient wallpaper, perhaps to convey the image that the skin looks like it has been through a lot of hardship. She then uses the other two similes to compare the skin to wallpaper once again, but this time to admire the beauty of the patterns and shapes she sees in the skin even though it is tattered and peeling like wallpaper. In lines 22-25 the author helps the reader visualize the fish as tough by using imagery

While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
-the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood
that can cut so badly-
She states that his gills were “breathing in the terrible oxygen” showing that he is still surviving although he is doing something that could kill him, something only a true survivor can do. She also refers to the gill as “frightening” and says they can “cut so badly” proving that she is starting to see where the fish can actually defend itself in some way, and that she no longer finds the fish incompetent. When she states that the gills are “crisp and fresh with blood”, the reader can truly imagine the fish as an injured warrior that is still trying to survive. In line 27 “I thought of the course white flesh packed in like feathers” bishop uses a simile to show how she imagined the flesh of the fish she couldn’t see in comparison to feathers, which can be considered beautiful. She also uses a simile in lines 33 and 34, saying the “pink swim bladder is like a big peony” which compares the bladder of the fish to a flower. Although she can’t see the bladder, just like she couldn’t see the flesh of the fish, she is imagining it as something beautiful such as a flower. In lines 34-41 the author actually looks into the eyes of the fish:

I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
-It was more like the tipping
Of an object toward the light.
She refers to the eyes of the fish as “yellowed” and uses a metaphor “the irises backed and packed with tarnished tinfoil” which compares the dull surface of the color part of the eye to tinfoil that has lost some of its shine. They eye of the fish is still beautiful, but it is now the eye of someone or something that has been through some battles so they may...
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