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Written by Timothy Sexton
Martin Brody is the Chief of Police of Amity Island. He is married to Ellen Brody and they have two sons, Michael and Sean. Brody is not a native of Amity Island and, in fact, does not really care all that much for island life. He is drawn into the great white shark hunt that takes up most of the second half of the film as a result of bringing in oceanographer Matt Hooper as a specialist to fill in his ignorance of shark attacks. His initial response following the discovery of the first victim is to shut down access to the beaches, but caves in to political and business pressure from those who fear such measures will destroy the summer vacation revenue many on Amity Island depend on. After little Alex Kitner is killed by the shark directly as the result of ignoring his own better instincts and cowing to the island’s special interest, he hires Capt. Quint to take Hooper and he out to sea to hunt the shark down and kill it. Which he does by shooting a compressed oxygen canister inside the shark’s mouth, thus blowing it is smithereens.
Matt Hooper is a young oceanographer to whom Chief Brody turned to confirm that the first known victim of the shark was indeed the victim of an attack and not the gruesome result of a boating accident. Brody and Hooper bond over a shared repugnance toward Amity Island Mayor Larry Vaughn’s almost-comical rejection that they island’s residents and tourists are in very real and serious danger from an enormous rogue shark.
Capt. Quint is the grizzled owner of the charter fishing boat the Orca who is finally hired by Chief Brody to take him and Hooper on a hunting expedition to track down and kill the ravenous shark terrorizing beachgoers on Amity Island. Quint was one of the few surviving members of the USS Indianapolis, the ill-fated naval vessel charged with the secret mission of delivering parts to be used in making the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima which was torpedoed and sunk on its return journey, leaving the 900 crewmembers that survived the bombing to fend for themselves for four days in shark-infested waters.
Larry Vaughn is the Mayor of Amity Island who actively obstructs and even derides the efforts by Sheriff Brody to protect residents and tourists by closing down the beaches until the shark responsible for the attacks is captured and killed. Only after his own young on is threatened by the shark’s voracious appetite does he finally start to put people ahead of profits. If Jaws has an actual villain, it would be Mayor Vaughn.
The Police Chief’s loving, supportive and occasionally very funny wife. Such a description of Mrs. Brody is quite at odds with the character portrayed in the novel on which the film was based. Author Peter Benchley’s subplot about an affair that develops between Ellen Brody and Matt Hooper was mercifully jettisoned to maintain the focus of the narrative strictly on the shark.
Chrissie Watkins just wanted to go to beach and meet up with friends, maybe meet some cute new guy, toss back a few drinks and, if the mood was right, go skinny dipping. What she did not plan on was sharing that moonlight swim in the raw with a 25 foot long example of nature’s most efficient underwater predator who was developing a taste for human flesh. Read one way, Jaws is a Marxist indictment of heartlessness of capitalism. Read another way, it is a cautionary tale positively Biblical in its moral: girls who get drunk, pick up strangers at bonfires and frolic naked on the beach wind up as sushi on the shore the next day.
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