In reference to "The Fish" what are some of Elizabeth Bishop's detailed observations and deep meditations that yield powerful insights? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Firmly in the ut pictura poesistradition--"as in painting, so in poetry"--Elizabeth Bishop's poem "Fish" depends upon a narrative that exists outside the poem/art as the images connect to interpretation of nature and speak to the reader.

The speaker of Bishop's poem interprets nature as art and receives its message that beauty can come from destruction.  Using synedoche, Bishop accomplishes this as the various parts of the fish connote different meanings. Also, with this breaking of the fish into his parts, the speaker departs from objective appraisal of the creature of nature and, thus, interprets nature as one would interpret art, from close range. For instance, Bishop writes,

Here and there

his brown skin hung in strips

like ancient wallpaper....

I looked into his eyes

which were far larger than mine

but shallower, and yellowed...

After these observations and others of the bones and the red and bllack of his shining entrails, the speaker "sees" the convergence of colors where the oil has "spread a rainbow," and she lets the fish go in the act of renewing life in a feeling of sympathy for the creature of nature who has earned "medals" with the "ribbons" of five big hooks and old fish line that he has previously broken.


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The Fish

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