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The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop
In 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
Imagery and diction are the methods implemented in this poem. The title of the poem itself dictates the main message Bishop wishes to convey regarding the process of aging. A fish is a creature that has preceded the creation of man on Earth. Therefore, Bishop supplies the reader with a subject that is essentially constant and eternal, like life itself. In further examination of this idea, the speaker is in relation to the fish, very young which helps introduce the theme of deceptive appearances in conjunction with age by building off the notion that youth is ignorant and quick to judge things. Bishop’s initial description of the fish is meant to further develop this theme by presenting the reader with a fish that is "battered," "venerable," and "homely." Bishop compares the fish to “ancient wallpaper” (11). Even without the word ancient preceding it, the general conception of wallpaper is something that fades into the background. One doesn’t take much notice of it or pay attention to it. To add to this impartial picture, the fish is brown, the signature color for dullness. “Shapes like full-blown roses stained and lost through age” (14-15), further cement the image of something with little time left to live. Full blown roses invoke the image of a flower whose petals are at the stage of falling off which mean its near its own death. This image isn’t even afforded the color and vibrancy usually associated with flowers for Bishop uses the words “stained” and “lost” which imply and 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 reader associates vivaciousness with...