Vocabulary in The Maldive Shark
The Shark: In his characterization of the shark, Melville uses adjectives such as “phlegmatical,” “sot,” “dotard,” “lethargic and dull.” The shark is sluggish, both physically and temperamentally—a mindless brute. There is no room for romanticization in this vision. Melville does not specify the species of shark, though it is most likely an oceanic whitetip shark or a variety of reef shark.
The Pilot Fish: In contrast to the lumbering shark, the pilot fish are “sleek,” “slim,” and “alert in attendance.” Melville imagines that these fish guide the shark towards its prey, serving as the “eyes and brains” of the behemoth. In return for their assistance, the shark harbors them from the larger dangers of the open sea, though the safety the shark provides is tenuous.
Vocabulary Examples in The Maldive Shark:
Text of the Poem🔒
"Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull..." See in text (Text of the Poem)