Analysis of The Fishmonger by S. Joseph

The Fishmonger by S. Joseph
മീൻകാരൻ – എസ്. ജോസഫ്

This particular blog post is my assignment for the subject “Translation: Theoretical and Literary Perspectives” under the course BA English Literature triple main (Communicative English with Journalism). I was asked to write an analysis of this Malayalam poem. It is then I released there is no reference or analysis of the poem “The Fishmonger by S. Joseph” available online. Yes, Google saves millions of students, the time and effort to start homework and assignments from scratch. So here is the analysis of the Malayalam poem, “The fishmonger by S. Joseph”.


Short Summary of ‘The Fishmonger’ by S. Joseph

This poem is a nostalgic memory of children seeing a drowned fishmonger in a stream. The fishmonger was washing his vessels in a stream and epilepsy had struck him. He fell into the water though it wasn’t even a half foot deep. Then there was a motor workshop and its laterite wall nearby the stream. However they did not see the fishmonger, not even the screw pines saw him, it was them, the children who saw the fishmonger. The fishmonger laid there while the life around him was still moving. His hair was moving in the water current, the screw pine leaves played in the water and the water-bugs roamed in one still corner of the tiny stream.

Above are the events that happened in the past, the narrator then tells the reader what he sees at the exact spot at the present. There is a chicken shop, the workshop has a cemented wall and the paddy fields are raised and ‘There is no sign of the fishmonger’

Analysis of ‘The Fishmonger’ by S. Joseph

The title of the poem, “Meenkaran” translates into the English word “Fishmonger”. Fishmonger is a term used to denote a person who sells fish. Today the fish we use to cook are often available in various supermarkets and shops. They are frozen and have a longer shelf life. Whereas in the olden days, people were used to hearing the loud cries of a fishmonger just outside their homes on a motorcycle or even a bicycle. The fishmonger traveled through the village areas supplying fresh fish which was probably fished from the nearby stream or a lake. This poem portrays such a fishmonger seen in the olden days. It is also evident that S. Joseph masters the subject of village life and is evident through his several poems. You can read more of his poems here:

The speaker of this poem is a child and is written in the first-person point of view. The entire poem is narrated through the eyes of a child. Hence it does not convey a serious mood and tone however the subject is sober. The poem is told as how a child would perceive the incident. Though the poem is entitled as “Meenkaran”, there is very little about him. A lot of imageries are seen through the simple yet strong descriptions of the surrounding. There is a shift in time in the description of the atmosphere. One, the scene was the fishmonger is lying dead; two, after that incident had taken place.

When the fishmonger is lying dead, there are ‘screw pines’(plants around the stream) nearby a ‘tiny stream’(a stream where the fishmonger used to wash his vessels, perhaps also fish. It was less than half a foot deep.), a ‘motor workshop’, and a ‘laterite wall’(a reddish clayey material. This also suggests that it was in the olden days, as usually cemented walls are seen everywhere). The fishmonger is found by a group of children lying down in the stream, with his ‘vessel’(the vessel he probably used to hold the fish in. Perhaps he was done selling so he was washing up), ‘scale and weights’(These were used in the olden days as there was no weighing machine available back then).

The following lines portray a powerful imagery.

“ The body of the fishmonger
Lying facedown
The vessel, the scale, and weights
Epilepsy having twirled him down
Water playing about his hair
In the water, the screwpine leaf playing about
Stabbing down and raising itself.
In the still corner of the stream
Water-bugs roaming.”

It is now known to the reader that the fishmonger died of epilepsy. These lines present the liveliness of life around the dead fishmonger. As the water flows down the stream, his hair is moving in the water and the screw pine leaves go in and out of the water and both these imageries show the movement of life around him. However, in one corner, the water is still and on it, the water bugs live. A slight contrast between movement and stillness is present in these lines.

Then the narrator returns to the present and once again visits the same place where the fishmonger was seen dead. Now there exists a ‘chicken shop’, ‘workshop with plastered walls’(The laterite walls have been cemented), ‘paddy field in the earth’. The last few lines of the poem show the changes from before and after the death of the fishmonger, mainly in the picturesque view of the spot of the death of the fishmonger.

These imageries constitute a major part of the poem as they witness the death of the fishmonger. It is narrated as how a child would observe such a scene. A lot of descriptions of the surrounding is given and much less information or details of the fishmonger is provided.


Theme – “Change is the only thing that’s constant”

The main theme I observe is ‘change’-the change between life in the olden days versus the present. As the ‘dead fishmonger’, ‘paddy field’, ‘scales and weights’ represent olden/earlier lifestyles and a ‘shop’, ‘cemented walls’, and ‘raised ‘paddy fields’ suggest modern lifestyles. There is a theme of nature evident through the vast descriptions about the ‘stream’, ‘screw pine’ leaves, and ‘water bugs’. This suggests a nostalgic moment, as the narrator visits back to the same place the death had occurred and observes the change. The subject of the poem surrounds the death of the fishmonger yet portrays a lot of liveliness in the poem.

Also, if you want to find more about the author and his poems, this is the best website I came across:

So this is the end, if you have any queries or suggestions leave them in the comments section, and do tell me if I missed anything. If you want me to write up on any other poem do let me know. Thank you.

Mercy Hapsiba

Blogger | Freelance Writer | Learner | Student

Dear Daddy Eldho

It was just a ‘freedom from boredom’ kind of a day. A friend and I went to a film and I must say, my friend was in tears when we left the theatre. Why?

The film is named Vikruthi translating into a Malayalam word with the meaning ‘mischief’. The story underlines a true incident that happened at Cochin Metro. A deaf and dumb passenger falls asleep on the metro and the co-passengers think he was drunk. He gets trolled on social media and the plot tells the story of the various problems he comes across.

Daddy Eldho was an innocent man, who worked hard to earn a living, who protected and loved his family. Even though he was deaf and mute, he fit in this society by just doing his part with responsibility. Daddy Eldho had been in the hospital for two days straight, looking after his little daughter who was ill. He was on his way home and he took the metro. He was tired after sleepless nights. He felt drowsy and thought it was okay to sleep on the empty seat. Surely why would anyone do that? We are the elite people, who can speak well and hear, and yet we fail to raise our voice or listen to anybody when necessary.

One of them went ahead, observed that everyone was giggling around looking at Daddy Eldho sleeping. He took out his phone and clicked a photo. He named it ‘Metro Pambu’ meaning ‘Metro Snake’ and he shared with his social media pages. That was one click and the next day every stranger made up their mind that Eldho was a drunkard. That was when Eldho’s son saw it and blamed his friends for having circulated his father’s photo with vulgar memes. However, he was convinced that it was his father’s fault thus the photo was the evidence.

Daddy Eldho had all eyes on him. He could not walk the streets, or if he did, he’d have to face embarrassing looks, the signs of cheap comments being shot at him, and crazy teenagers laughing at him. He became such a popular star in just one meme, that many wanted to take photographs with him. He lost his job. He lost his reputation. And more than that he’d lost his strength to cope with society at that moment. As a deaf and mute person, Eldho felt humiliated, estranged, and more importantly, he blamed himself for something he’d not done.

In today’s world, where we share jokes and trolls on social media for just a good laugh, one would deny the fact that anybody would be seriously hurt by it. It is just a joke, right? And then when we have a film depict how a single troll went on to affect two different families, their life and their surrounding; it’s just a film, right? No, not in this case, because this has happened in real life and a real Daddy Eldho was punished. It was unfair that he was mistaken, and he was never given a chance to explain himself. After all, if he told you that he wasn’t drunk and just tired, would you believe it? Or would you rather believe the troll and share it as you’re convinced?

That day, it was not just a film for me, I saw parts of me reflected on the huge screen, that I could not take my eyes off. It’s surprising how we tend to be convinced by the gossips we overhear and we deny the truth irrespective of how many ever times we hear it. Why do we all just like to put someone on the pedestal just to make a fool out of them? And then at last when we experience something bad, we can blame society for it and not ourselves. And who is the society, if not you and the people you know?

For those of you who haven’t watched it, it sure is a work to be appreciated. Eldho was a convincing character that I will cherish forever in my heart. For we all have a little of Eldho in ourselves. So this will be the end, I won’t tell you how the film ends, its for you to watch and find out what Daddy Eldho had to say to the man that estranged him.

Mercy Hapsiba

My Fears Removed!

Hello People,

I know it has been a long time since I posted the ‘Hello Post’. However, I read this post over a hundred times before I finally had the courage to post it here. So this blog post is special to me, these are events that I refuse to think about even today. Some of which I had the strength to share with family and friends, and some, I try to convince myself that it never happened. So here it is!

Quite often I travel alone by public transport and I usually enjoy it. From just staring out the window, seeing chains of hills passing by, glancing at busy people climbing in and out of the bus; to overhearing secret conversations, and feeling sad for the tireless bus driver who angrily looks at the conductor at every whistle.

One day I was returning home, and that’s when this happened. The bus was not very crowded, usually, it seems like a thousand feet shuffling around to grab a seat. But there it was calm and serene. He quickly blew the whistle, the bus halted for a second and people rushed in. There were no empty seats and people were standing. I was seated two seats behind the driver. It is a custom to feel safe for everybody, especially a girl to sit close to the driver’s seat. It makes me wonder how any traditional parent, would advise there children to strictly avoid strangers but a bus driver can seem trustworthy on their first meeting, that they would request to drop their children safely at their destination.

This man stood right next to me, he was drunk. He looked straight into my eyes and I felt the wave of discomfort. I looked away. He took his cellphone, and he clicked a picture. I heard it the first time. I stared at him, and he immediately acted like he was on the phone with someone else. I had that feeling whether he was trying to fool me, but I thought to myself that it was probably a mistake. Then he went on to take more pictures of me, standing in front of many other strangers in a moving bus. He clicked quite a few, and I heard it myself. There was a girl behind him, telling me in action that I was in that photo, but I couldn’t really do anything, could I? Several others told me, and more than half of the people on the bus knew this happened at that moment. But no one asked him or checked his phone. I didn’t have the courage to confront a drunkard in front of so many strangers. After all what would have happened if I was not in any of those pictures that he clicked? So I just sat there numb.

I was scared. I was afraid of him. I felt vulnerable. Not because he had taken pictures of me, I have posted several pictures of myself on social media and I never felt that. But because he thought I was something that he could capture on his phone for his timely pleasure. I was trembling with fear at that very moment. It was that very instant that I decided not to travel alone ever again. And so there, I blamed myself for the happening. I thought it was my fault that I traveled alone. It was ironical, how many passengers had the concern to inform me of the situation but none of them had the courage to stand up for me. However, I wasn’t in a position to question them because I felt defeated at that point. I stood there helpless and powerless.

When I did share this with a friend, a friend I’ve known for about ten years; he blamed me too. He said that it was my hair colour that led him to do that. I had my hair coloured in pink just a few days before the travel. How could it be? Even if it was due to the same reason, I had it tied neatly and very little of the colour was visible. It was very pointless to argue so that was the end of that.

On another bus journey, (yes I traveled alone again), I chose, again, to sit close to the driver. An old lady sat beside me, she was smiling rather too polite. She started the conversation, she said, “I’ve seen you somewhere, I don’t remember quite well.” I felt the same, so the conversation went on. She said, “ what are you wearing on your hair?”. I said with a reserved smile, “it’s a red hibiscus,” removing it off my hair. She smiled, and said, “Your hair is still red!” So I went on to explain that it was pink and how silly I was to colour my hair. And she gave me a pleasant stare and remained silent for a few minutes. “You should remove it, otherwise people would think you’re “that” type of girl.” So I was struck again for being just me. How does one judge another based on their hair colour? And what if it isn’t their natural hair colour? So what? I can empathize where they get this idea from but it never is that way.

Once, back in my school days, my teacher was reading a novel aloud to me and her daughter. In it, it talked about a prostitute, not her actions or anything but just her appearance and I remember very well, my teacher was in tears. I could never understand why. She never stopped reading but I noticed her brittle voice screaming for love.

So there I was , sitting muted, and I told her that it was none of her business! It is very startling as to how we make a judgment of others just by their looks, and of people, we especially don’t know. It’s not that I don’t do it, but what makes us any better from the others?

Do we ever stop and think for a second how our actions and comments could hurt someone else? How we easily invade someone else’s private space, and make them feel uncomfortable? Why is that we often forget that the other person deserves the same respect as we expect for ourselves? Why do we act so carelessly? Where should one feel protective if one can’t be safe by themselves? Sure, we can blame the other or the situation, but is anything more than that we cannot’t handle ourselves? And if not, where can we find the courage to stand up for ourselves?

Mercy Hapsiba

Hello everyone!

This is Mercy Hapsiba. I am pursuing my Bachelor degree in English literature in my hometown, Kumily, Kerala. I live with my grandmother, she is 64, and still working. She is a tourist guide at the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady.

This is my first blog, I am wishing to write about everything that makes me wonder. This will be a personal blog and you may find yourself reading anything about my personal life to views and opinions on a world crisis. This is to let you know that I ponder a lot in my mind; and the topics could be of precisely anything existing or non-existing based on the human life.

Also, many things I wish to talk about are neglected in the society; whether in college, with friends or at home; so I am choosing to write here. Writing is my passion and I wish to learn more through this blog. Surely I am expecting your comments and opinions but only constructive criticisms are appreciated.

Thank you,

Mercy Hapsiba

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