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The Fish

The Fish

by Elizabeth Bishop

Lines 34-40 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 34-35

I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine

  • Finally the two opponents make eye contact.
  • These lines clearly state the human vs. fish battle that as readers we've probably already picked up on. Now it's completely out in the open.
  • And the comparisons continue: the speaker notices that the fish's eyes are larger. (This must be a pretty darn big fish.)

Line 36

but shallower, and yellowed,

  • Again, here is the contrasting remark to the previous lines.
  • The fish's eyes might be bigger, but they're shallow. What that says about either the speaker or the fish, we're not quite sure. But this is starting to feel rather personal. Looking your meal in the eye before killing it? Does seem like a good idea to us.
  • We also get more color.

Lines 37-40

the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.

  • Isinglass is gelatin from fish used in making jellies, glues, etc.
  • Bishop is getting creative in her description of the fish's eyes, but basically she's saying they look yellowish, vaguely shiny, and scratched.
  • It's safe to say the fish eyes look nothing like human eyes at all – another distinguishing factor between the fish and his captor.
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