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Allusion in The Maldive Shark

Allusion Examples in The Maldive Shark:

Text of the Poem

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"asylum in jaws of the Fates!..."   (Text of the Poem)

This line compares the shark’s jaws to both an “asylum,” or place of refuge, and the Fates, the Greek goddesses who determine the destinies—and deaths—of all mortals. The suggestion is that the pilot fish have a tense relationship with the shark, who can both offer them asylum and, like the Fates, decide at any point to kill them.

"Gorgonian head..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “Gorgonian” compares the shark to a gorgon, a monster from ancient Greek mythology. Gorgons have been imagined in many different ways but often have snake-covered heads and are so terrifying in appearance as to turn humans to stone with a single look. The Greek poet Hesiod imagined the gorgons as sea creatures; it is possible that Melville drew on Hesiod’s version by comparing the Maldive shark to a gorgon.

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