The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop Essay

The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop

            The fish in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem The Fish, is large, old fish. It seemed to have stood the test of time, growing bigger as it grows older. The poem described certain physical characteristics of the fish, which affirmed of his old age. The fish’ skin is compared to ancient wallpaper which “hung in strips” and the pattern is “like full-blown roses stained and lost through age” (Bishop). The fish also have barnacles growing in his skin, which again points out to its old age. It was further described as something which was worn down by time, not in manner which the fish seemed like a weakling, but more of an experienced survivor.

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            At the start of the poem, the narrator said that the fish did not fight at all, but this doesn’t mean that it was a weak victim. Perhaps, it just thought that it was finally his time, after all the years of near-capture, near-death experiences, someone finally succeeded to catch him. This wasn’t directly stated in the poem, but we can assume that the fish is not a weak victim from the hooks hanging from his mouth. His mouth has “five old pieces of fish line” with “five big hooks grown firmly in his mouth” (Bishop). It was compared to medals with their ribbons. These hooks are proof of the fish’ experience, and that he’s not a weak victim.

            After all the years of surviving and escaping after getting hooked by other fishermen, the fish finally admits defeat. He didn’t fight because he’s already had his share of fighting for his life. Perhaps he thought it really has to end that way. Ironically, the narrator thought differently. For the narrator, catching the old fish is really already a victory, and that there’s no need to end its life for that matter. The fish earns another experience, and lives to tell another story.

Work Cited

Bishop, Elizabeth. “The Fish”.  1979. June 9 2008. <>.