Study Guide

The Fish (Marianne Moore) Perseverance

By Marianne Moore

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You'd think that with all the "dynamite" and "hatchet strokes" the cliff would have had enough and given up by now. But not our cliff. In "The Fish" that symbolic structure endures all the abuse and perseveres, even if a part of it is dead. So we understand that it's kind of like us trekking through the hard times and maybe even surprising ourselves by proving that old phrase: what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

Questions About Perseverance

  1. How does the natural world appear to persevere in this poem, despite various forms of abuse?
  2. Why are the mussel-shells described as "injured fans"?
  3. What do the "ash-heaps" represent in the poem? How do you know?
  4. What are the two types of abuse the cliff endures? How are the types different and why does the speaker distinguish between the two?
  5. If the cliff's "chasm-side" is dead, how can it possibly live on? How can one part survive without the other?

Chew on This

Nature is one tough cookie (mmm, cookie). Since it is so closely connected to human life in "The Fish," though, we can assume that humanity is just as tough.

Hang in there, everyone. To persevere is to adapt, and the beat-up cliff proves that anything can adapt to even the harshest of circumstances both natural and manmade.

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