The Fish Questions and Answers
by Elizabeth Bishop

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In the poem "The Fish" what is the poet's attitude towards the fish? Where does it change as the poem progresses?

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In her single-stanza poem, "The Fish," Elizabeth Bishop uses the speaker's increasing attention to the details of a fish to shift the speaker's perception of  and feelings about the fish. It's a lesson in how attention to details can grant subjectivity to a seemingly lifeless object -- in this case, a fish.

The speaker's relationship to the fish changes at two key points. First the speaker observes that "He didn't fight," and that in fact, "He hadn't fought at all." This observation sparks a curiosity for the speaker, who then continues to note the fish's bloody gill, and the barnacles which had lodged on the fish's skin along with seaweed. The speaker then begins to personify the fish through noting the bone structure and physique until he/she gets to the jaw where "hung five old pieces of fish-line...with all their five big hooks/grown firmly in its mouth." This is the second and more startling realization. The speaker realizes that the...

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