Imagery and Diction in The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop Essay

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Imagery and Diction in The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

Elizabeth Bishop's use of imagery and diction in "The Fish" is meant to support the themes of observation and the deceptive nature of surface appearance. Throughout the course of the poem these themes lead the narrator to the important realization that aging (as represented by the fish) is not a negative process, and allows for a reverie for all life. Imagery and diction are the cornerstone methods implemented by Bishop in the symbolic nature of this poem.
The title of the poem itself dictates the simplicity Bishop wishes to convey regarding the narrator's view of his catch. A fish is a creature that has preceded the creation of man on this planet. Therefore, Bishop supplies the
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Instead, Bishop uses the words "stained" and "lost" which imply an absence of color. She even names the culprit in line 15 with the phrase, "lost through age." With this phrase it is made clear that the fisherman associates vivaciousness with youth. Through Bishop's imagery, the fish is portrayed as something archaic. This serves to create a distance between the narrator and the subject as it stresses the gap between youth and age.
The second half of the poem is marked by a bridge in this gap as the narrator engages in a more empirical study of the fish, thus heightening the sense of epiphany that the narrator reaches by the end of the poem. This idea is supported by the frequented use of self-address implemented in the second half. The speaker becomes more involved. "I thought," "I looked," "I admired," all produce a more active role on the part of the fisherman.
The turning point in the poem that triggers this alteration is when the narrator realizes that the fish is, in fact, still alive. "While his gills were breathing" (line 22) is the first action given to the fish and the first time he is addressed as a living thing. Prior to this moment in the poem, movement had never been addressed. This triggering point changes the focus of the observation from the fish's characterization as a simple creature to a focus on his inner self, a portrayal that gives the fish meaning as one of God's creations with valuable life. The change in focus

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