On The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

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Hong Kong Institute of Education
Literature in English III: Poetry
Final Paper on The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

Kum Yuen Man, Gladys
(SID: 11047405)
BA (Language Studies – English major)

Elizabeth Bishop was born in Massachusetts in 1911 and had a harsh childhood. She lost her parents when she was very young and had to move from place to place to live with her grandparents. However, Bishop seldom includes explicit accounts of her personal life in her works. Instead, she focuses on her view to the physical world and vividly describes objects in her poems to give strong impression to readers. Bishop’s The Fish was written in 1946, in which she a fish caught by a fisherman, the speaker, is pictured. Visual imagery plays an essential role in cultivating the atmosphere and emotion of the poem. In this essay I will analyze how visual imagery is effectively used to deliver messages and connect the flow of emotion of the whole poem. The Fish is a rather long poem which consists of 76 lines. Bishop stated that this was a memory poem, recording her catching and letting go a fish in 1938 in Key West. Throughout the poem, the fish is portrayed with similes and detailed descriptions. Vivid images empower imagination for readers and enable readers to create a picture of the poem in their minds. This works effectively to engage readers. The point of view of the speaker changes throughout the poem. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker is more like an outsider. Gradually, the focus has shifted to the appearance of the fish. At the end of the poem, after the epiphany of the speaker, he or she has, to some extent, become part of the marine. He respected the fish and also the nature and finally decided to let the fish go. Many colors are included in the poem and the colors become more vibrant as the poem progresses. The first color appeared in the poem is ‘brown’ in line 10. Then ‘white’ color appears in line 19 and 27. Colors then become sharper: ‘reds and blacks’...
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