What images does she use to describe "The Fish"? Elizabeth Bishop relies on precise imagery in this poem, not only to describe the fish, but to also express her feelings about it.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Elizabeth Bishop's poetry is descriptive, and in "The Fish" the speaker paints with images. The imagery that describes the fish and the speaker's reactions is mostly visual.

These images are reflective not only of nature, but of the self-referential element of art. For instance, the skin of the captured fish looks to the speaker like peeling "ancient wallpaper"; on the fish's side, there seem to be shapes resembling "full-blown roses" with petals that have become stained while some have fallen off. This old fish has barnacles on him that appear as rosettes with "tiny white sea-lice" while green weeds that look like rags hang from him.

At the end of the poem, the images are conjoined in the visual imagery of a rainbow when the self-referential speaker envisions "victory" filling up the boat because of her catch (the spilled motor oil and water) along with the fish's victory over other fisherman evinced by the hooks in his lip. Seeing these images of a rainbow on the sides of the old victorious fish as well as in the boat, the speaker sympathetically releases him:

...everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow! 
And I let the fish go.

Read the study guide:
The Fish

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