Thursday, October 15, 2020

Individual and species in Mark Doty's "A Display of Mackerel"

Mark Doty's "A Display of Mackerel" describes how the fish for sale "lie in parallel rows, / on ice" and interprets them as having "nothing about them / of individuality." The individual fish, then, are not individuals at all but only representatives of their species, "each a perfect fulfilment" of a "mackerel essence." This Platonic understanding of the fish leads to the conclusion not only that "they don't care they're dead" but that "they didn't care that they were living." Such an erasure of the individual in the species facilitates our consumption of each individual fish; we see them not as individuals but only as a species that continues in others. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 October)


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