Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 439
The great white shark is introduced in Chapter One. A beautiful young woman swimming late at night after making love on the beach is its first victim. When Benchley's editor, Tom Congdon read the first draft of Jaws, he was impressed by the power of the opening chapter and felt that the shark was the most convincing character in the book. After the work was published, most critics agreed with Congdon's original opinion that the shark was the most believable of Benchley's creations. His knowledge of the shark enables him to present the great fish as perhaps the most terrifying of the ocean's predators. Its appetite is never satisfied for long.
Most of the humans in the book are at best only slightly more than stock characters such as might appear in an average adventure novel. Benchley does develop his protagonist, Martin Brody, Chief of Police in Amity, to some extent. Of working class origins himself, Brody knows that his wife Ellen will become discontented as the tourist season continues. Benchley presented her originally as a happily married woman, but the editors at Doubleday felt the need for more spice in the novel. She was born into the same class as the summer residents — Benchley's own class, actually — and misses the luxuries that are so much a part of their lives. Ellen becomes an adulteress. She has an affair with a young oceanographer. Matt Hooper, whose family used to vacation in Amity. Eventually, Brody and Hooper become allies in the hunting of the white shark. Class consciousness is forgotten in the face of a common danger.
After the shark has claimed several victims and Brody closes the beaches, he finds himself in the situation of the classic western lawman. The community, including his former friend, Mayor Larry Vaughan, opposes his decision as he tries to protect them. Brody finds an ally in the professional shark hunter, Quint (no first name). Quint has been as isolated all of his life as Brody now finds himself. He goes after the shark for profit and does not care about the community. He alone has the knowledge to bring the shark to bay. As experienced as he is, he still underestimates the threat the white monster poses. His boat is wrecked an he loses his life in the climax of the novel.
Brody, who is the only survivor of the shark hunt, is effective here in the context of the plot. He has the required courage and resourcefulness to finally win in his struggle against the shark and is made sufficiently attractive as a human being to make the reader glad he survives.
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