Irony in "The Fish"


The final line of “The Fish” is strongly ironic: Why would the speaker go to such trouble to catch the fish if her aim was to let it go? The final gesture is understated and unexpected, and it causes us to reevaluate the significance of catching the fish in the first place.

- lines 5/6 - "He didn't fight. / He hadn't fought at all"
The poem begins with this unexciting observation that is also ironic because later descriptions present the fish as a great warrior displaying its hooks and severed lines like war medals.

- line 66 - "and victory filled up"
The speaker is presumably filled with “victory” because she has caught this legendary fish, but we recall from the beginning of the poem that “he hadn't fought at all.” Catching the fish was just luck rather than strength. Is she truly victorious or not? The fact that she lets the fish go at the end might cheapen the sense of victory (victors are boasters by nature), or it might bring that victory to a higher level (the appreciation of beauty outweighs any mundane victory).

Questions for response
1). How does this examination of irony change your understanding of how the poem works as a whole?

2). Find other examples of irony in the poem. What do they contribute to the work?





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