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Poems pass information through the use of symbolism and imagery. Poems have to be keenly analyzed to ensure a proper understanding of the information they seek to relay. Poets are likely to make the meaning of a poem not easy to understand because the message is usually targeted at a particular group. Therefore, other people are not supposed to get a poem’s deeper meaning. The poem “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop is about an amateur who went to catch fish. This amateur did not have her own boat and had to rent one. The amateur arrived at the fishing zone and started fishing. She got a big, ugly fish that had many past hooks stuck on it. The fisherwoman got really interested in this fish and saw it as a survivor, one that had passed through many hardships just like the way a human being goes through life. The amateur compared this fish with a wise old man who had acquired war medals. Further, the amateur got a personal struggle of deciding whether to let the fish go or to retain it. The author makes use of personification to draw a clear comparison between this fish and life of a human being: She calls the fish him instead of it. In the end, the fisherwoman releases the fish with a conviction that it was the only moral thing to do.
In human life, older people are more experienced and they are easily identified by wrinkles on their skin and grey hair on their head. They are assumed to have come across various challenges in their life. In the same manner, the fish that this fisherwoman got had signs of aging in its lips. The marks on the lips of the fish show the number of hooks that this fish escaped from in its life. The marks represent achievements of this fish in life. Similarly, the life of a human being is full of obstacles and many scars that remain as reminders. The fish had five beards of hooks, and the fisherwoman compared them with beards of a human being. Beards are associated with age. A person with a beard is assumed to be old enough to be able to make critical decisions on their own, as they have seen many things in life that have made them wiser than before. The poem clearly brings out the issues of victory, tolerance, and wisdom. Moreover, the poem also tackles the issue of old age that makes one less strong to fight back. The old fish has five hook marks, meaning it has escaped five times from fishermen’s line or hook. Now due to the old age, it is unable to escape from this trap.
This analogy compares well with the life of a human being. A young person has enough energy to do many things, but as they get older, this energy reduces and makes them weak to respond to some conditions. Judging by the description of the old fish, it is too tired and gives up to be caught. It no longer has energy to fight back. The five hooks’ marks can be compared with medals that an old person may have been awarded in life, showing the struggle in which a person has been engaged. Some oil spills from an old engine of the boat formed a rainbow on the water surface. This rainbow symbolizes renewal and cleansing of people in the universe and hence giving them a chance to start life again. The fisherwoman decides to give back life to this fish and a renewal of wisdom when she releases it back to the water. In the same manner, human beings are given a chance to turn over a new leaf. After the time of Noah, rainbow symbolizes protection by God, giving people a chance to live. The poem of fish clearly shows hardships, age, and renewal characteristics that are present in human life from young age to old age.