1 April 2018
It’s More than a Betta Fish
In “The Betta Fish, Christmas,” by Julie Danho, the speaker talks about buying a betta fish as a christmas present for her daughter. However, the poem seems to have a much larger significance, as the speaker reveals that the family has struggled within the past year. In “The Betta Fish, Christmas,” the poem shows how the betta fish relates to the hardships that the family has experienced by using symbolism and figurative language.
By using symbolism, one can see how the betta fish is symbolic to the family’s past year. Throughout the poem, the speaker, who is a mother, explains the struggles of buying a christmas present in second person point of view. The mother and her husband purchase a betta fish as a christmas present for their daughter. However, according to the speaker the fish had become “a tiny red/problem,” (ll. 21-22). The problems that come with the fish is somewhat symbolic of the “hard year,” that the family has been dealing with (l. 17). The betta fish barely moved, and the family was left with only three options: “kill it, let it die slowly/in the small, cold, bowl,/or fork over for a tank/with a heater and a filter” (ll. 2-5). The betta fish is only a tip of the iceberg for a family that has been struggling throughout the year. The speaker explains their struggles by saying: “Our axis had moved enough/that we could expect land/and step on water instead” (ll. 18-20). Nothing has seemed to go right for this family, and by using symbolism, the reader can see how the betta fish is symbolic of the family’s hardships.
Throughout the poem, there are examples of figurative language being used by the speaker. These examples help play a role in defining the entire theme of the poem. An example of this is when the speaker is looking at the betta fish and says “ [W]e looked/at him like a painting until/it was time for bed” (ll. 29-31). The poet is using a simile to compare the fish to a painting. The similarities between the two being that the speaker is observing and examining different elements of the betta fish like one would do with a painting, and the fish is still and lifeless just like a painting. Another example of figurative language is when the speaker says “Bred for beauty,/the betta would fight another/male to the death” (ll. 25-28). This quote is an example of personification being used to try to give the betta fish characteristics of a human. One last example of figurative language being used is when the speaker says: “It had been a long hard year./Our axis had moved enough that we could expect land/and step on water instead” (ll. 17-20). This quote is an example of an metaphor, alluding to the fact that whatever decision this family has made throughout the past year always ended up not going in their favor. These three examples of figurative language help show how the betta fish relates to the hardships that the family has experienced.
We have now examined how symbolism and figurative language play a major part in shaping the theme of “The Betta Fish, Christmas.” When first reading the poem, it is hard to understand what the theme of the poem is unless it involves buying a fish. However, the poem is more about the hardships that the family experiences than actually buying a betta fish.