Lit. Crit. Jaws Essay, Research Paper
In the novel Jaws written by Peter Benchley, Critics are correct when they claim that the novel has a lack of characterization, the book is used as an escape, Benchley is a master of suspense writing, the novel displays the facts of Great White s and critics claim that the novel also displays formuliac plotting, and is an allusion to classic fish tales such as; Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Critics need to loosen up on irritating Benchley with obvious, but not intentional comparison to fish tales and sub plotting.
Peter Benchley was born 1940 may 8 in New York. He is the son of a very literary oriented family. His father Nathaniel Goddard was also an author. Benchley was educated at Harvard University. Some of Benchley s interests are Diving,tennis, wildlife, the theater, and films. In addition to all this Benchley has a love for the ocean. Benchley has been a novelist, a reporter, an editor, staff assistance to the president, and has worked in the White House doing other various things. There is a particular interesting moment in Benchley’s life. When he was working in the White House, the president picked up some of his work to read it and said something along the lines of Bull shit . The president basically called it trash. The majority of his novels are closely related to the ocean if not in the ocean. An example of some of these are The Beast or White Shark. Both of those of which were made into screen plays. He also wrote a childrens book called Jonathan Visits the White House. One of Benchley s greatest successes is that his novel Jaws was on the New York Times best-seller list for over forty weeks. This made him the most successful first novelist in literary history. Jaws the motion picture was so successful that there was were sequels, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws the Revenge. As one can see Peter Benchley has a great love for the sea and marine life. He has done plenty of research to back up almost everything that goes on in his novels such as shark facts, fishing facts, weather facts and much more.
Jaws is a great novel about the town of Amity that relays on tourism. A White shark was terrorizing the towns people and their business, while the young Matt Hooper a ichthyologist has an affair with Brody’s wife. Brody,Quint the fisherman, and Hooper all set out to catch the fish. They all lost their lives except Brody while attempting to catch the fish. The fish eventually dies in the end.
Characterization is a main issue in the novel Jaws. As critic, John Spurling puts it, The characterization of the humans is fairly rudimentary , (54) Indeed this is true, it is pretty basic. That is not exactly what Peter Benchley was reaching for. He is reaching for suspense. Critic Michael Rogers claims the characters as neither likable or interesting , (260). The characters are not very likable. Benchley displays them all with bad habits and regrets, for example, Brody’s wife feels as though she threw her life away. She cries every time she tries to bring up her past. Brody’s boss is seen as a grade A asshole. Who would want anything to do with him? In addition to this there is other interesting characters that are not liked for example Hooper. Hooper of course sleep with Brody s wife Ellen. He also gave Quint a hard time while they were out looking for the shark. Hooper haggles Quint when Quint gut open a shark and the shark tried to eat itself until it died, Hooper said Jesus and Quint replies You don t approve then Hooper came back with That s right. I don t like to see things die for people s amusement. (237) Later Quint explains that it s what feeds him. After reading that who would want to associate with Hooper? Of course no one would. There is nothing really likable about any of the characters in the novel. Michael Rogers is wrong in saying the characters are not interesting. The characters are very interesting. Just because the characters are not likable does not mean they can t be interesting. A good example of this would be Hooper. Most of the people who read the book abhor him. He is not very honest and displays a type of truthfulness in which is false he lies and sleep with the police chief s wife. This makes people dislike him, but it indeed makes him very interesting. The lack of Characterization is excusable for the simple fact that Benchley did not attempt to make to novel based on character. He made the novel to keep people on the edge of their seats reading, fidgeting, twirling their hair, sweating and wondering what is going to happen next.
The novel is used as an escape. This is so because it enables the reader to take an adventure and leave behind the real world. The events which happen in the novel are interesting and people are not used to story’s of those types. He is a master of suspense as Michael Rogers puts it. (75) Rogers also classifies Jaws as a page turner It is a page turner because it keeps one on their toes. One is always pondering and contemplating what will happen next. A great example of this is would be the ending. In which they hunt the shark with harpoons. There is plenty of opportunities for the shark to eat some of the people and it does. Another fine example would be in the beginning. One has to pay close attention to the detail.
The fish dropped entirely below the surface, and, with two quick thrusts
of its tail , was upon her…She reached down to touch her foot , treading water with her left leg her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left
hand. She could not find her foot… Bones and meat passed down the massive gullet in a single spasm…The great conical head struck her like
a locomotive, knocking her up out of the water. The jaws snapped shut around her torso, crushing bones and flesh and organs into a jelly (12)
Anybody would agree that this particular scene is tense. Would one close the book in the middle of that paragraph? Of course not, that paragraph of the novel Jaws is only one of many suspense filled scenes in the novel. Critic Donald Newlove would agree that Benchley is a master of suspense. He states The climax does have a scenery-chewing, ball breaker harpooner, Quint, a storm, more blood… (14). That is the whole point of the novel to keep people yearning to read. John Spurling says the shark is done with alarming skill and all the scenes are done with exhilaration . He also says each scene has a special pitch of intensity . All this suspense leads to something usually the bloody massacre of a human being. This novel is used as an escape. Critic Gene Lyons would agree. She states What one gets from Benchley, and this , I think, is the essence of his commercial genius, is escape. What she means by this is an escape from reality. One does not have to think about their problems if they are too busy contemplating the problems going on in the novel. This is what readers want to see and this is why Benchley is so successful.
Many have used the novel Jaws to receive facts on great white sharks. In fact Jacques Cousteau had said Jaws is educational people book and I use it as a shark reference (Moritz, 76) Throughout the novel, Benchley obviously did his research. He knows of the attack habits of a great white, and he also knows what chumming is. Benchley explains often organs of the great white and how it thinks. Apparently the shark does think even though it is not suppose to. A good example of Benchley knowing facts is before they go out on their first trip in the end of the novel. Brody asks if Quint can start tomorrow and Quint replies Nope…I got a party tomorrow…charter party (222) Brody does not know what this is he thinks it is a regular party. Quint says you don t do much fishing later in that conversation Quint explains that the people at the charter party are his best customers. Quint does not want to lose them so he starts later. It is obvious that not anybody would know this, which shows one that Benchley did his research.
One thing that Benchley was jeered about was his formiliac plotting. The critic Donald Newlove states, Jaws is awful, Jaws has rubber teeth for a plot, and Jaws is stunningly bad… (23-4) Newlove gives no love. Who cares if it is it is successful. Newlove needs to read the story more carefully and enjoy it. Even if it does have formuliac plotting its still a great novel. Yeah, Jaws is so awful it made New York time s Best seller list for over forty weeks! Then after that it was made in to a great suspense filled movie. In addition to this the novel was so good and so was the book that three sequels followed Jaws the film. The Critic Lyons of New York times would agree, he states Instead of wallowing among the commonplaces of our culture s self-doubt, (Benchley s protagonist) are lucky enough to have An Adventure. Peter Benchley s critic s should shut up and be satisfied with the great novel which Benchley wrote.
Peter Benchley s Jaws was often compared to classic fish tales such as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Ernest Hemingway s The Old Man and the Sea. Jaws is very similar to these other classic stories. They have a similar plot and a very similar ending. In addition to this all stories have to do with something deeper then just hunting the creature for example, revenge, self worth or even inner pride prove ones self. Since Benchley did not intend them to be that way then it is not harsh criticism. As a matter of fact Benchley states It isn’t that Kind of book, really….It s a novel, and I think it s a good one, but it s a story not and allegory. I mean it s nice being a little bit rich and a little bit famous, but dammit, I didn t intend to rank with Melville. (Contemporary Authors,33) As one knows, Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea are allegories. Benchley did not mean for it to look that way, but it does. As The Critic John Spurling states …Jaws is haunted intermittently by the shades of Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea. At its centre is the duel between a man and a monster fish. (54) Well what is Jaws ? Jaws is the same exact thing. The shark is the monster fish and Quint is Hunting it down. The ending is also similar to both books, the fish dies in all of them, and in all of the three novels, catching the fish is more than just for material purpose. In The novel The Old Man in the Sea Santiago the main character wants to catch the fish for some kind o f inner pried. He has to prove himself, even though the marlin and Santiago were both defeated in the end he still knows he conquered the fish. In Moby Dick the whale is almost mythical, Jaws proves to be the same way. As The Critic Andrew Bergman claims, No mortal man is going to catch that fish (14) This is obviously true, in the actual novel Quint says Smart or not, I wouldn t know…but he s doing things I ve never seen a fish do before. (279) Accordingly to all of Benchley’s research white sharks are suppose to lack intelligence. In the novel the shark appears to be outsmarting the crewman. Overall Jaws is very similar to these stories therefore all the Critics were correct in the fact that it is similar, but Benchley did not copy from them. He just happens to be a talented writer.
Jaws is a great novel written by Peter Benchley. Benchley was very harshly criticized with great asperity about various subjects such as formuliac plotting, and weak characterization. The critics may be correct, but they definitely over criticized him. He was praised for being a master of suspense and for his novels are known to many as an escape from reality. Some of the critics can use an escape from reality.
Bergman, Andrew. The New York Times Book Review . The New York Times Company (1974): 14. Rpt. in CLC 4, Carolyn Riley. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1975. 53.
Jones, Daniel. Jorgenson, John, D Jaws Contemporary Authors. 66. 1998 ed.
Lyons, Gene. The New York Times Book Review . Rpt. in CLC 8 and Major 20th-Century Writers, Carolyn Riley. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1989. 82.
Moritz, Charles. Peter Benchley Current Biograghy Yearbook .1976.ed.
Mote, Dave. Contempary Popular writers (1997): 31-32 NY: St James press
Newlove, Donald. The Vellage Voice (1974): 23-24 Rpt. CLC 4 ed Carolyn Riley Detroit: Gale Research Company 1975.53-54.
Rogers, Michael. Rolling Stone. (1974)P.74. Rpt. in CLC 4, Carolyn Riley. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1974. 54
Spurling, John. New Statesman(1974)703 Rpt. in CLC 4 Carolyn Riley Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1975. 54.