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The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

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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 wallpaper. 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

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