In her poem, "The Fish", told in the first person, Elizabeth Bishop applies elaborate imagery and abundant use of similes, and adjectives to tell the tale of an encounter between a novice fisherman and a weary, somewhat jaded fish.
Once the speaker has caught the fish, Bishop gives us the impression that the fish does not have the will to fight because he is too old and tired to even try. "He didn"t fight. He hadn"t fought at all." (lines 5-6) The speaker then begins to scrutinize the fish. Although initially the speaker seems to find the fish repulsive, closer inspection reveals an inconspicuous beauty. Bishop acknowledges the speaker's appreciation for the fish's beauty by drawing an image with her words. "He was speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime." (line 16-17).
The simile is used throughout the poem to allow the reader to gain a clear representation of the speaker's thoughts and emotions as he relates to the fish. Bishop conveys the speaker's initial distaste with the appearance of the fish by comparing it's skin to something old and artificial. "Here and there his brown skin hung in strips like ancient wallpaper- (lines 9-11) Later, as the speaker becomes more acquainted with the fish, his perception of the fish's skin seems to change. "I thought of the coarse white flesh packed in like feathers- (lines 27-28) It becomes apparent that the speaker's feelings toward the fish begin to evolve into that of a kind of respect for the difficulties the fish has experienced in the way that Bishop describes the hooks and lines in the fish's mouth. It is almost as if Bishop is comparing the fish to a proud, war-torn soldier. "Like medals with their ribbons frayed and wavering- (lines 61-62).
Throughout her poem, "The Fish", Elizabeth Bishop has used the most colorful adjectives in an effort to allow the reader to relate more closely to the plight of the fish, and perhaps feel some of the sympathy the speaker begins to feel for the fish as well.