A New and Old Response to The Fish

4 Dec

Between two completely different poets, I found interest, like them, in the topic of The Fish. While The Fish By Marianne Moore was written in the early 20th century, The Fish By Elizabeth Bishop was written in the mid ninetieth century. Though each poet graced an overlapping century, the topics of each of their poems take a different perspective on the topic of marine wildlife.

Moore’s poem was one big metaphor meant to teach her reader. By using specific word choice, personification, and hyperbolized prose, Moore conveys her complex message with clarity.  Though the poem possesses observations that any scuba diver could  observe , in reality, her poem is a critique of mankind.  Moore advocates for the effectiveness of marine life. The sea “can live on what can not revive– its youth. The sea grows old in it”. In some ways, the sea works exactly like its terrestrial counterpart, however, it’s diverging interactions and relationships make the ancient ecosystem timeless. Moore portrays a tone of envy and admiration in response to the ageless ocean.

In contrast, Elizabeth Bishop advocates a different message in her poem, The Fish. Just a couple decades younger, Bishop lives in a time period very different from her fish-intrigued companion. As America moved deeper into the 20th century, it developed a new approach to the surrounding wildlife. Questions arose about nature that could and could not be answered. Either way, admiration stepped down from its pedestal and let sympathy take its toll. Bishop utilizes countless similes, the replication of words for emphasis, and personification to convey her message. Unlike Moore’s poem, Bishop did not envy the marine life that she observed. She sympathized with it. The “tremendous fish” that she originally caught went from a meaningless midday catch to a compassionate companion. After looking “into his eyes” and admiring “his sullen face”, Bishop’s ends the poem with a profound message: “I let the fish go”.

In this way, Bishop and Moore differ in their approach to marine life. Moore admires the world that differs so much from her own, while, Bishop sympathizes with a creature so like herself. Even when gracing the same century, their difference in age among seems to be the driving factor in their approach to wildlife. Nonetheless, by utilizing similar techniques, their messages stand strong in response to the fish.




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