What is a suggestions for a thesis for "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop?I am writing a essay on this poem but need 3 points for a thesis. I was trying to compare how the fish is a symbol of nature...

What is a suggestions for a thesis for "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop?

I am writing a essay on this poem but need 3 points for a thesis. I was trying to compare how the fish is a symbol of nature and it struggles because of mankind but do not know what to write.

2 Answers | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

If you want to argue that the fish is a symbol of nature, you need to think about the way in which the speaker's attitude towards the fish changes and how she ends up letting the fish go at the end of the poem when she comes to experience an epiphany about the fish and about nature at large. You might like to consider the following description of the fish:

...and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.

In a powerful simile, the speaker describes these various proofs of the fish's survival against mankind, saying they are "Like medals with their ribbons." It is this evidence of the way that the fish has struggled against mankind successfully for so long that causes "victory" to fill the "rented boat." It is this epiphany that demonstrates the speaker's awareness of the precarious nature of the human condition. In a sense, the speaker identifies with the fish, which allows her to move beyond the dichotomy of victor and victim and to attain an understanding of the way that the fish has suffered for so long at the hands of man. Using this argument, you can easily argue that the fish becomes a symbol of nature who is under attack because of man, but the speaker moves beyond this confrontation to identify with the fish and to see the similarities in their position.

Sources:
mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Elizabeth Bishop is a poet of the ut pictura poesis tradition: Art, like nature speaks.  Her poem, "The Fish" is pictorial in its descriptive imagery of the "tremendous fish" whose skin is likened to antique wallpaper with defining rosettes.  This fish is the natural object that opens the referential world of art: "--until everything/was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!"

Therefore, a thesis for this poem by Bishop can be a statement of how the single fish is, indeed, "tremendous" because it awakens the speaker to the victory of them both as the speaker learns from its death to read the world around her. For, this is the meaning of the lines,

I stared and stared

and victory filled up

the little rented boat

In this poem the speaker looks into the eyes of the fish and, thus, becomes a respecter of life.  With her exclamation of renewal--"rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!" the speaker lets the fish go in an act of cleansing, as well as an act of recognition of the greater world of nature over the human.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,989 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question