JAWS BY PETER BENCHLEY
published in 1975 by Book Club associates
It is a criminal novel.
A young, visiting girl is reported missing in a small, quiet, idyllic town in America called Amity. The following morning they find her molested, mutilated, remaining corpse on the beach. As it turns out she has been killed by a huge white shark.
Martin Brody is the police chief of Amity. He is married to Ellen Brody, and together they have got two young children.
After this tragic incident, Brody wants to close the town beach, in the interest of the public`s wellbeing, but reluctantly he is forced by his former good friend and mayor of the town, Larry Vaughan, to leave them open. The town depends on tourism, and can not risk a financial loss over this tragic incident, which surely was an unfortunate accident.
They don`t attract any publicity to the girl`s death by conspiring with the leader of the local newspaper, and Brody`s good friend, Harry Meadows, agreeing that he wont publish any information concerning the accident in the local paper, ”The Leader”.
A couple of days later, people encountering on the town beach are terrified witnesses as a six year old boy is killed by the shark. Brody hadn`t closed the beaches, and naturally he feels guilty and responsible for the youngster´s death. The boy´s mother is devastated and outraged to discover that the tragedy could have been avoided. As they discuss how to get control over the situation, the shark craves yet another victim, a 65 year old man, one policeman´s effort to help him only results in his arm being torn off his body.
After a short while, Brody and one of his men find a fisherman, Ben Gardener`s, boat abandoned and destroyed by the shark. He has been killed trying to catch it. The town has already suffered severe economical difficulties and faces ruination.
A scientist specializing in sharks, Matthew Hooper, arrives in town where he meets Ellen Brody, who is excited to discover that he is the brother of her former boyfriend.
The same evening they have a dinner party, to which Hooper is invited. He and Ellen get along very well, and Brody is sick of jealousy. The next day, Ellen cheats on her husband with Hooper. Brody is extremely suspicious, but can`t accuse her having no evidence of her affair.
Meadows finds proof why Vaughan is so troubled about the town´s economical problems, being the wealthiest man in town. Vaughan is involved with the mafia, and risks losing everything he has .
Brody is adviced to reopen the beach, because the shark probably has left, and the town is on the brink of ruination. He decides to open it again.
When Brody returns to his home his son has just watched one of Vaughan`s men strangle his cat, telling the young boy to tell his father to be subtle, and is hysterical. Brody, offcourse, is furious.
The next day, people come primarily hoping to see the shark, along with reporters. A young boy who decides to take a swim, barely escapes the shark attacking. They are not certain how to react, and hire a famous shark expert, Quint, to help them catch it.
Hooper, Brody and Quint go out on sea to try and catch the shark. The first day out they see nothing, but Quint is determined to capture it, because he considers himself superior to the shark.
The second day out they track it down and unsuccessfully pursue to kill it. They are amazed to uncover its size, Hooper sincerely believes that it is related to the species of Megalodon, a prehistoric hundred feet beast. They head back home, and will return the next day. Larry Vaughan simultaneously announces to Ellen that he is leaving, because he is on the brink of ruination and has given up.
The next morning at the dock, Hooper brings with him a cage to allow him to dive and observe the shark. Brody and Quint approve with avertion, because it obviously is a certain suicide. They find the shark once more, but it eats their bait without giving them a chance to kill it. Hooper dives in his cage, in an attempt to shoot the shark, but it spreads the bars, and kills him instead. When they once again fail to kill it, they leave to come back the next day.
When they return the following morning , they succeed in hurting it, but it attacks the boat, and the boat starts sinking. The shark is hurt by three harpoons, but manages to get away, and drags Quint with him. The shark gets the opportunity to kill Brody, but deliberately doesn`t, and Brody swims towards the shore.
Martin Brody- He is a righteous man, and sincerely loves his wife Ellen, though he can feel that she is discontent with their life. He therefore feels very threatened by Matthew Hooper, because he is a part of the past she wants to recover. He is also very caring towards other people, but is easy influenceable, and when he must decide whether or not to close the beaches, part of him wishes to listen to his own ituition and part of him to give in to the pressure that surrounds him. He is intelligent, and even though he primarily thought that sharks were simple, stupid animals, he realizes that they are not.
Ellen Brody- is discontent with her life, and desperate to reencounter the life that she once had. Her values are superficial, in difference to her husband. She won´t accept her present life being her future, it is not what she had imagined. Even though she loves Brody she still misses her old acqauintances and her former lifestyle. This reflects in her behavior towards her husband.
Matthew Hooper- is the brother of Ellen`s former boyfriend. He is now a scientist specializing in sharks, and does not want to be reminded about his past. He is eager to represent himself as an outstanding man, and to conceal his real, selfish personality. He once had a crush on Ellen, and still finds her attractive, but does not care about her. He is a sleezy person and a coward, and only interested in protecting his own matters.
Larry Vaughan- he is a respected man, the mayor of the town. Few people know of his involvement with the New York mafia. He was forced to work together with them, because he owed them lots of money that he had borrowed when his wife was ill from cancer. He was a near friend of Brody`s, but they slipped apart when he threathened Brody to make him lose his job. He is terribly frightened about the town`s economy. There is a possibility that he will lose everything, and this makes him think only of himself.
Quint- he is a notorious fisherman, who specializes in, and is famous for, catching sharks. He is a unscrupeulous man, who has no respect for nature, as he measures himself superior to any lifeform. He is convinced that he will succeed in killing the shark.
Harry Meadows- he is the leader of the local newspaper, and a good friend of Brody`s. He is a kind and considerate man, but not very wise in his prediction, in addition to Hooper he believes that the shark is predictable. Unfortunately, he is badly mistaken.
The name of the town, Amity ironically can be associated with the word amiable, which means friendly, and amenety, which means comfortable. The town is small, and depends on it`s summer tourists, and when people do not dare to come because of the shark, it is disasterous, for the economy, and people`s lives.
The novel is a magnificent description of how the menace of the monstrous shark becomes an evil presence throughout town. People are left as terrified witnesses as the horrid shark simply outlives his basic instincts. The tragedy is difficult to avoid, especially because of people`s lack of judgement, and it changes innocent people`s destinies.
The real subject of the novel is human weakness. The horrifying presence of the shark shakes the inhabitants, and exposes their inner fears and tensions, and releases their true inner selves.