The Fish Questions and Answers
by Elizabeth Bishop

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Why does the speaker let the fish go?

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In Elizabeth Bishop's famous poem "The Fish," the speaker spends most of the poem describing what she sees as she looks at the fish, and the poem ends, of course, with the speaker letting the fish go. 

Early in the poem, the speaker notes that the fish "didn't fight. / He hadn't fought at all" (5-6). This seems a bit unusual, but then the speaker goes on to record other details and observations about the fish's appearance. The fish is described as "venerable," with "skin . . . / like ancient wallpaper" (8, 10-11). The word venerable, paired with "homely" is an interesting choice on Bishop's part. To venerate something is to respect it, usually due to its age or wisdom. Homely is a less positive word, making the fish seem ordinary and not beautiful. However, it could also mean that the fish is at home or comfortable in that place.

The fish is "speckled" and "infested," which seems to further indicate that the fish is quite ugly and nothing to really be admired; however, his age is...

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