Intense Imagery In “The Fish”

I really enjoyed reading “The Fish” because it was much easier to understand than the poems we have read in the past. On the surface this poem is pretty simple. Bishop writes with intense imagery to describe a time that she (or the narrator) caught a fish and bonded with it in a way and ended up letting it go. An aspect of Bishop’s imagery I found interesting was her tendency to humanize the fish. Instead of referring to her catch as “it” or something along those lines, she refers to the fish as “him.” This brought the fish to life for me and I started to feel bad for it in a way. The difficulty in this text actually arose because it seemed to be so ordinary and easy to understand. I started to wonder if this was actually Bishops goal – make the readers think more about what she has to write instead of hiding it obscurely in her poem. Not only do I start to feel bad for the fish but I gained a sense of respect for him, as I believe the narrator did as well. This made it hard to picture the fish caught on the fishing line, breathing in poisonous oxygen and getting ready to die. I think that the reader also struggled with this and it was out of respect and also guilt that she ended up setting him free. This poem also slightly reminded me of the book David and Goliath, which focuses on how the underdog can defeat the larger, often favored opponent. In this poem, that is exactly what happened

One comment

  • That poor fish! Interesting take, Marion. I’m particularly struck by your note about the pronoun “him” (as opposed to “it”) in the poem, which does serve to humanize the fish. It reminds me of Johnson’s argument about address: apparently simple rhetorical choices can have a large impact on how we perceive (and relate to) things in the poem.

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