The Fish

The Fish-Bishop


Late 1930’s, Bishop has discovered Florida and a new found love of fishing. She worked on the poem during the winter of 1939 and sent s finished draft to her friend Marianne Moore in early 1940. The poem was first published in March of 1940 in the Partisan review.


  • The first nine lines deal with Bishop catching the fish. There is surprise from Bishop that the fish did not put up more of a fight. When Bishop referred to the fish as tremendous we can see that there is some pride from Bishop that she caught such a big fish. Battered suggests that this is not the first time that the fish has been in this sort of position. Venerable seems to be Bishops way of putting an old age on the fish again adding to the idea that the fish has escaped many a fisherman. These three words together then leads on to the idea that the fish has fought through many different hardships in life.
  • While the fish does not emanate any glorious or beautiful qualities in its following description, it does still seem to catch Bishops powerful imagination. Here Bishop shows infallible attention to detail in capturing the details of the fish in words. Bishop never romanticises the fish during her description, instead she sticks with realism. We also witness how uncomfortable the fish is once it is removed from its natural environment. Bishop then launches into a description of the fish on the inside and uses an array of colours.
  • Again the age of the fish is brought to the fore as Bishop looked into the eyes of the fish in an attempt to understand or communicate.
  • Bishop now notices the other hooks in the mouth of the fish showing the fish had escaped five other attempts on his life. This shows the fish to have battled hard through five possible life changing experiences and it managed to get passed each one. Bishop can now identify with the fish and its life struggles. The fish has now become a symbol of success in the face of adversity.
  • The poem does end in a romanticised way as Bishop releases the fish back into the water surrounded by beautiful colours of nature and the rainbow. This fills Bishop with hope.

Key points

  • This poem emanates Bishops life struggles.
  • We see the fish battle through much adversity just like bishop herself.

Bishop domesticates the images to make it familiar without losing the wildness of the fish completely.


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