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Elizabeth Bishop the Fish - the Fish's Image

Essay by review  •  October 10, 2010  •  Essay  •  872 Words (4 Pages)  •  993 Views

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Elizabeth Bishop The Fish

The Fish's Image

With fewer than fifty published poems Elizabeth Bishop is not one of the most prominent poets of our time. She is however well known for her use of imagery and her ability to convey the narrator's emotions to the reader. In her vividly visual poem "The Fish", the reader is exposed to a story wherein the use of language not only draws the reader into the story but causes the images to transcend the written work. In the poem, Bishop makes use of numerous literary devices such as similes, adjectives, and descriptive language. All of these devices culminate in the reader experiencing a precise and detailed mental image of the poem's setting and happenings.

One of the most prevalent of the literary tools used in this poem is the simile. Repeatedly throughout the poem Bishop uses the simile to give the reader a clearer picture of the situation at hand. The simile is an ideal literary tool to use when the author is trying to convey a sensory description of an object or idea. When describing the fish's physical appearance in lines 9-15 she compares the fish's skin to "ancient wallpaper"; this immediately gives the reader an impression of the age and outward appearance of the fish. Later in the poem when in lines 61-62 she describes the pieces of broken fishing line hanging from the fish's mouth as "medals with their ribbons / frayed and wavering" she is using a simile to give the impression of pride and honor. This comes at a point when the narrator is developing admiration and respect for the fish and the experiences it has been through.

Throughout the poem the reader is exposed to adjectives that are more vivid than those you would expect to find in traditional speech. This is due to the fact that in poetry the author often has the need to express emotional sensations to the reader. The adjectives allow the reader to become more closely connected to the events and characters in the story by emphasizing the key points in the mental imagery that the author wishes them to see. In the poem Bishop predominately uses this tool to negatively describe objects or representations of objects. This gives the reader the feeling of sympathy for the fish because these objects seem to cause or represent pain felt by the fish. For example on lines 22-23 of the poem we experience the narrator's first real sense of sympathy for the fish when they speak of his gills "breathing in / the terrible oxygen". We can then relate the fish breathing oxygen more closely to a human experience such as drowning.

Much of the language in the poem does not necessarily fall within the constraints of a specific literary devise. However the language the author chooses to use is very descriptive of the situations and events that occur. From the language in the poem we draw what is quite possibly the most important part of the whole experience,

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