First Death in Nova Scotia: In First Death in Nova Scotia we meet many detailed images of many sorts, from the domestic ‘marble table’ to a ‘frozen lake’, and it may be seen that such a contrast of images represents that Bishop is at an age where she cannot yet accept death as a part of her life. As a result death is not presented as inevitable and normal in life, but rather at odds with that which Bishop is used to; this is seen elsewhere when Bishop talks about how her cousin bears resemblance to how she always knew him, such as that he ‘was very small’, yet is simultaneously not the same person at all. She refers to him as ‘the red-eyed loon’, with loon meaning an altered individual, perhaps insane, who is commonly considered to be a completely different person as s/he has lost all sense of being. The poem also possesses Bishop’s concrete, intense language, which assists in the revealing of the poet’s message. Bishop’s sense of unknowing about the death is captured in just three words: ‘cold and caressable’. While short and compact, this phrase shows Bishop once more unable to comprehend the full meaning of death; she can still caress her cousin as when he was still alive, but for some unknown reason he is ‘cold’ now.
The Fish: The fish is described ambiguously, with ‘brown skin hung in strips/ like ancient wallpaper’ but also ‘speckled with barnacles, fine rosettes of lime,/ and infested with tiny white sea-lice’, and elsewhere ‘battered and venerable/ and homely.’ The contrast is initially surprising but when considering the link of the poem to Bishop it makes sense, as the fish can be compared to Bishop and be seen to symbolize how she has been ‘battered’ by the turmoil in her life, such as her difficult familial situation; the mention that the fish’s ‘pattern of ark brown/ was like wallpaper:/ shapes like full-blown roses/ stained and lost through age’ can be read as a commentary on Bishop and how life has had a debilitating. Language is again intense and concrete, and helps in presenting the aforementioned representation of Bishop: the short sentence ‘He didn’t fight./ He hadn’t fought at all’ reminds us of how the fish fought earlier in the poem when initially caught, and concisely symbolizes how Bishop may have initially had strength to fight back against her difficult situation, yet does not have such strength any longer, due to her being ‘battered’ by life.
The Armadillo: The eye-catching imagery is again present, with the ‘frail, illegal fire balloons’ juxtaposed against the sky lit up with stars and planets; Bishop speaks of the balloons and tells us ‘Once up against the sky it’s hard/ to tell them from the stars’ and the comparison of the balloons to stars and planets emphasizes how visually spectacular these objects are. This effect is greatened when Bishop compares the collapse of a balloon to the messiness of a smashed egg, saying it ‘splattered like an egg of fire’; the splattering of an egg is a spectacle in itself, given the messiness of a broken egg with the mixture of various colours and the broken shell mixed with the destroyed yolk, but Bishop goes further, calling it an egg of fire, mixing fire and flame with the aforementioned messiness. Concrete language is also present, as the shameful exit of the armadillo is encapsulated succinctly in three words, ‘Hastily, all alone’; the words are all of negative connotation, implying weakness and shamefulness, and contrast sorely with the more intense language associated with the baby rabbit, such as its ‘fixed, ignited eyes’. These words are vivid, and present a determined and powerful being, which the armadillo is not as it flees the scene.