What will be a good topic in describing the poem "The Fish" by Elizabeth Bishop"  

Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A good topic to treat Bishop's "The Fish" with is transformation.

The fish doesn't fight with the speaker, and the speaker doesn't think much of it to begin with.  She goes through and relates an unemotional, objective description of the fish which includes faded skin, lice infestation, bloody gills, and even the fish's entrails:  hardly a flattering depiction of the fish.

But then, says the speaker,

...I saw 

that from his lower lip

--if you could call it a lip--

grim, wet, and weaponlike,

hung five old peices 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.

And the speaker's experience of the fish is transformed.  The hooks and the accompanying lines become like "medals with their ribbons," and the fish's beard is "a five-haired beard of wisdom/trailing from his aching jaw."

She stares and stares--transformed and transfixed--and victory, figuratively, fills the little, rented boat.  Even nature contributes to the transformation, creating rainbows with the sun and the oil and the gasoline in the bottom of the boat. 

epollock | Student

A good topic could be about the redemptive soul; after struggling for so long with the fish, the speaker obviously admires the fighter. Yet, the fish is returned to the water after the epic struggle. The tattered boat does become magnificent for having the fish in it. The rainbow—the sign of hope and of God’s promise to Noah to spare humanity—grows in the imagination until it fills “the little rented boat,” illuminating (we might say) the speaker, who, perceiving the heroic history of the captive, forbears to conquer and returns the fish to the water.

Read the study guide:
The Fish

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question