The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop- Critical Analysis And Summary Essay

About the poet 
Elizabeth Bishop
              Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet and short story writer who has won many awards including the Pulitzer prize and was the  poet laureate . At a very young age itself, she lost her father and mother and she became physically ill.
Very often She had to overcome asthma attacks and personal battles as well. She never enjoyed a normal family life. As she grew up, she began to write beautiful  verses and at school, her poems were admired and published by her best friend, Franie Blough in a student magazine.

            During her college days, She published her works independently in "The magazine". In 1933, Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Mac Carthy and Margaret Miller together expressed there strong feelings against the literacy tradition of that time in "Con Spirito", a rebel literary magazine co-founded by them.It was an age of confessionalism in poetry with John Berryman and Robert Lowell leading the group.Elizabeth Bishop remained uninfluenced by the mode of writing in vogue.
Works:- Her works include 'North and South"(1946),Poems: "North and south/ A cold spring" (1955), "Questions of travel"( 1965), "The complete poems" (1969), "Geography 111" (1976) and "The complete poems 1927-79" (1983).

The Fish -  A Short Summary
             The poem deals with an uncommon experience of releasing the fish that the poet has laboriously caught. Her scrupulous observation of the enormous creature lying submissively beside her little rented boat overpowers her with admiration. She presents the fish as a heroic warrior who has fought many wars and encountered many dangers. The beauty of its brown skin long since faded, is suggestive of the enormity of the struggle the fish has had to put up. The sight of the fish lines along with the swivels, hanging from its aching jaw, instills pain and pity in the poet's mind and this brings in about a transformation in her. Pity develops from the bottom of her heart and as a token of acknowledgement of the valour of the fish, she releases it. The love and compassion she feels for the fish fills her with a greater joy than that she felt on catching it.

Stanza wise summary

Stanza 1:- Bhishop begins the poem with her claim of having caught the fish with great effort.

                  I caught a tremendous fish 
                  and held him  beside the boat
                  half out of water, with my hook
                  fast in a corner of his mouth
                  it didn't fight
     She calls it a tremendous fish the use of the adjective 'tremendous' suggests that the fish was very huge in size and the poet took great effort to catch it. The fish was very unusual and he surrendered so meekly. Its lack of defiance is the first sign that this wasn't what the speaker anticipated.

Stanza 2:- The fish was very heavy and its body bore marks of previous attacks. It seemed holy but was not charming and attractive to eye. It's brown skin reminded the speaker of faded ancient wallpaper with patterns of full-blown roses in darker brown.

Stanza 3 and 4 :- Its body was speckled with rose shaped barnacles and was infested with tiny white sea-lice. The fish might have lost the beauty of its skin due to its experience of withstanding numerous assaults.Here we find the most ugliest description of the fish.

Stanza 5:- The fish's gills were cut and they were bleeding. The bloody gills appeared terrible. The fish in his good old days must have used his gills to attack the victims.Now in captivity the gills move in a terrible and frightening manner as it gasps for oxygen and the poet describe them as frightening gills

Stanza 6-8:- In this stanza, the poet thinks about the inner symmetry of the fish. The poet's imagination jumps from the 'coarse white flesh' packed like feathers, to the big bones and little bones with its 'dramatic reds and blacks'.  Its pink swim-bladder was as beautiful as a big peony that bore pink flowers. It's eyes were large and shallow, yellowed with age, the irises so dull as though covered with tarnished tinfoil. Its vision was blurred ,seen through the lenses that were old and scratched like isinglass.

Stanza 9-12:- The poet feels admiration for its's sullen face and excellant mechanism of its jaw. As the poet observed the fish more closely, she saw five old broken fish lines with the swiwels attached to them, hanging down from its lower " weapon-like" lip and they were like medals with ribbons on the uniform of a brave soldier. The enormous fish had the look of a veteran soldier who had fought many wars and braved many dangers.

Stanza 13-15:- The poet also noticed a five-haired beard trailing from its aching jaw.The poet regards this as an indication of wisdom aquired through experience.

       As the poet started staring the battered creature, a sudden shift of feelings occured within    the poet's self. she noticed hints of victory filling up her little rented boat and spreading like rainbow from the pool of bilge water to the whole environment until every rusted part of the old little boat turned to rainbow. The rush of pity made the poet unhook the fish from the line and release it. The love and compassion that she felt for the fish filled the inner shelves of her mind with a greater joy than that she felt while she caught it. Her mind was cleansed and her wisdom was renewed and she saw the rainbow of boundless  joy around her.        


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