Can you provide a short summary of White Shark, including its conflict and setting?

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Jessica Gardner | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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White Shark is a thriller by author Peter Benchley, set off the coast of Connecticut in 1996. In contrary to the title and unlike his other novel, Jaws, the book does not center around a shark. It does, however, follow a mysterious and dangerous amphibious creature as it terrorizes a small New England town. 

The novel begins as a Nazi scientist named Ernst Kruger escapes to his submarine at the end of WWII. He carries a bronze box, the contents of which are unknown. He is leaving to meet his fellow scientist, famed Josef Mengele. Kruger is never seen again, though his shipwrecked submarine and his box are discovered over half a decade later by a photographer, David Webber. Webber's curiosity leads him to open the mysterious bronze box. Obviously something is unleashed by this, as the photographer and the box disappear overboard, leaving only a bloody camera behind.

The rest of the novel focuses on a local marine biologist named Simon Chase who observes the strange incidents that occur after this creature's release, though the cause is as yet unbeknownst to him. Animals on land and in the sea are attacked and killed by something, we know not what. The animals are all killed by something that must have large, sharp claws, and that is amphibious. The suspense of what this odd creature could be is upheld until the end of the novel, when we make the chilling discovery that the creature is a Nazi weapon devised by Kruger.

Belatedly, we learn that "it" once had human identity as Heinrich Guenther, a huge blond SS soldier whose criminal acts even the Nazis could not tolerate. He preyed on German victims as well as on those people considered enemies of the state.

The secondary plot of the novel is in Simon's relationship with his estranged son, who has come to stay with him for the summer, and in the budding romance between Simon and Dr. Amanda Macy, a marine researcher. Thanks to one of her sea lions with a camera fastened to its back, the first sighting of the creature is uncovered. Together, they solve the mystery of the human-beast hybrid and work to destroy it.

Thus, the main conflict in the book is of man versus the beast. I say beast instead of nature, because der Weisse Hai ("the white shark") is of course an abomination of nature. In some ways you might say it's a conflict of good versus evil, as the creature embodies the atrocities committed by the Nazi party (most specifically their horrifying medical experiments) during WWII.

A minor conflict would be in Simon's attempts to reconnect with a son he hasn't seen in twelve years, and in the relationship he has with his ex-wife; she is wealthy and offers him money for Max's keep, but Simon is too proud to take it.

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