The Fish Questions and Answers
by Elizabeth Bishop

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In Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish,'' why does the speaker let the fish go at the end of the poem? Please defend your answer.

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The speaker examines the fish closely and sees right away that it is aged. It hangs heavily on the hook, and its body and eyes speak of the long history of its survival. The speaker visualizes what it looks like on the inside, and those images reflect beauty: "white flesh...like feathers" and a "swim-bladder like a big peony." The speaker appreciates what he or she sees and regards the fish as an entity without explicitly humanizing it.

When the speaker's gaze settles on the fish's jaw, he or she sees that the fish has escaped death at least five times. Its lip contains hooks and lines that have scarred over. Five people have hooked the venerable fish, and all have gone home without this particular prize.

Because the speaker has the fish out of the water, this time it will not escape. However, the speaker comes to the rapid and overwhelming realization that just landing this old warrior of a fish is a "victory" because he or she has succeeded where five others have failed. The speaker...

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