The Fish By Elizabeth Bishop Gone Fishin

The Fish By Elizabeth Bishop: Gone Fishin’ Essay, Research Paper The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop: Gone Fishin’ “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop is saturated with vivid imagery and

The Fish By Elizabeth Bishop: Gone Fishin’ Essay, Research Paper

The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop: Gone Fishin’

“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop is saturated with vivid imagery and

abundant description, which help the reader visualize the action. Bishop’s use

of imagery, narration, and tone allow the reader to visualize the fish and

create a bond with him, a bond in which the reader has a great deal of

admiration for the fish’s plight. The mental pictures created are, in fact, so

brilliant that the reader believes incident actually happened to a real person,

thus building respect from the reader to the fish.

Initially the reader is bombarded with an intense image of the fish; he

is “tremendous,” “battered,” “venerable,” and “homely.” The reader is

sympathetic with the fish’s situation, and can relate because everyone has been

fishing. Next, Bishop compares the fish to familiar household objects: “here and

there / his brown skin hung in strips / like ancient wallpaper, / and its

pattern of darker brown / was like wallpaper;” she uses two similes with common

objects to create sympathy for the captive. Bishop then goes on to clearly

illustrate what she means by “wallpaper”: “shapes like full-blown roses /

stained and lost through age.” She uses another simile here paired with

descriptive phrases, and these effectively depict a personal image of the fish.

She uses the familiar “wallpaper” comparison because it is something the

readers can relate to their own lives. Also the “ancient wallpaper” analogy can

refer to the fish’s age. Although faded and aged he withstood the test of time,

like the wallp aper. Bishop uses highly descriptive words like “speckled” and

“infested” to create an even clearer mental picture. The word “terrible” is

used to describe oxygen, and this is ironic because oxygen is usually beneficial,

but in the case of the fish it is detrimental. The use of “terrible” allows

the reader to visualize the fish gasping for breaths and fighting against the

“terrible oxygen,” permitting us to see the fish’s predicament on his level.

The word frightening does essentially the same thing in the next phrase, “the

frightening gills.” It creates a negative image of something (gills) usually

considered favorable, producing an intense visual with minimal words. Another

simile is used to help the reader picture the fish’s struggle: “coarse white

flesh packed in like feathers.” This wording intensifies the reader’s initial

view of the fish, and creates a visual, again, on the reader’s level.

Bishop next relates to the fish on a personal basis: “I looked into his

eyes? ?I admired his sullen face, the mechanism of his jaw.” Through this

intense diction, a tone of respect is produced. It is as if, for a moment, the

poet descended to the fish’s level, and the reader then has more respect for the

fish’s situation and the narrator’s position regarding the fish. She described

the fish’s stare “like the tipping of an object towards the light;” this very

astute observation shows the reader that the poet is thinking deeply about the

fish, and there is a connection made on the part of the poet. The lip “if you

could call it a lip” is the next part observed. It is described as “grim,”

“wet,” and “weapon-like,” giving the reader, through personification, a “fishy”

view of the creature as he actually exists. As she explains the hooks and lines

caught in his lip, the reader learns that his lip has grown around the hooks,

thus becoming part of the fish. These appendages hang “like medals with their

ribbons frayed and wavering,” creating the image of a hero winning many

competitions or battles. This simile creates another level of respect for the

fish on the part of the narrator, and following the simile is a metaphor which

emphasizes the narrator’s ensuing admiration for the fish. The fish is now

considered “wise” with his “five-haired beard of wisdom trailing behind his

aching jaw;” and he is now on a higher plateau of respect.

The narrator then compares this little fish’s greatness with her boat.

This “rented boat” “leaking oil” from its “rusted engine” created a rainbow so

beautiful that she became overwhelmed and released the fish. The boat started

out imperfect, but so overwhelmed the poet, that she released the fish. Here,

the boat can be compared to the fish, in it’s initial imperfection, then to its

final magnificence. The descriptive words allow the reader to, again, visualize

the moment vividly through the eyes of the narrator.

Bishop does an outstanding job in describing every moment 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. The narrator’s relationship with the fish then grows to one of

personal regard as she looks into his eyes and describes his stare. Because the

reader is following the story with the poet, the reader’s relationship to the

fish evolves as Bishop’s does. Next, a level of admiration is reached, when

Bishop notices his five hooked jaw; she realizes his situation of capture and

imprisonment and releases him as he’d gotten away five times before. The

reader’s admiration also reaches this level of respect, in that the fish had

been caught five times previously and still managed to be alive. The fish’s

“badges of courage,” described by Bishop, allowed the reader to grow and create

a bond with the fish and understand his life. The imagery and description were

the vital tools in implanting this growing admiration for something as trivial

as a fish.