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The Fish
The Fish
by Elizabeth Bishop

The Fish Theme of Humility

Who is humbled by whom? At first we might think that the fish is humbled by the fisher, because he doesn't even bother to fight against being caught. We'd probably be wrong though. The rest of "The Fish" demonstrates how much respect the speaker has for the fish, and how humbled she is by the fish's heroic and violent past. Respect and humility go hand in hand. The speaker develops enough respect for the fish's wisdom and experience to be humbled by him.

Questions About Humility

  1. Is the speaker humble from the start, or does the event (catching this crazy fish) humble the speaker?
  2. Does the speaker's humility grow the more she examines and understands the fish? Do you think humility and understanding go hand in hand?
  3. Why do you think Bishop chose to make him an ugly fish? If the speaker were humbled by a beautiful fish, would it have a different effect on the poem?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker's humility isn't a symptom of weakness. In fact, releasing the fish shows the speaker's courage.

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