Study Guide

The Fish Power

By Elizabeth Bishop


Who has the power in "The Fish," the speaker or the fish? Well, it would immediately seem that the speaker does, because she is responsible for determining whether or not the fish will survive. However, as the poem progresses, we start to see evidence of the power the fish has over the speaker. It's not physical power; it's something we can't quite put our finger on that moves the speaker enough to contemplate the fish and finally set him free.

Questions About Power

  1. Based on what we know about this fish, what makes him so powerful?
  2. Does the speaker seem more or less powerful to you when she lets the fish go?
  3. How many shifts in power (between the speaker and the fish) can you cite in this poem?
  4. Why doesn't the fish put up a fight?

Chew on This

Neither the fish nor the speaker holds the power in this poem.