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 poem “The
Fish,” is meant to support the themes of observation and the deceptive nature of surface appearance which, through the course of the poem, lead the speaker to the important realization that age is not a negative process. Imagery and diction are the cornerstone methods implemented in this poem. The title of the poem itself dictates the main message Bishop wishes to convey regarding the process of age. A fish is a creature that has preceded the creation of man on this planet. Therefore, Bishop supplies the reader with a subject that is essentially constant and eternal, like life itself. In further examination
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Through Bishop’s imagery, the fish is portrayed as something archaic. This serves to create a distance between the speaker 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 speaker engages in a more empirical study of the fish, thus heightening the sense of epiphany that the speaker 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 speaker. The turning point in the poem that triggers this alteration seems to be when the reader 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 external body of the fish to his internal self. The change in focus illustrates the need to look below the surface to gain an accurate and complete picture. Bishop commemorates this progress with the addition of color, dimension, and life. These three additives had been missing in the previous

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