Jaws, a novel: Not just a scary story

dust jacket of Jaws is undercover scene of shark about to attack
A woman is swimming within a gulp of the shark’s jaws.

Having seen the trailer for the movie Jaws, I was surprised to find Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws not only read-in-one-sitting interesting, but also remarkably insightful.

The story is about how people respond when an elusive great white shark begins terrorizes a small Long Island town just before the July Fourth weekend that opens the tourist season.

When a young woman is reported missing, local police chief, Martin Brody, finds what’s left of her body down the beach from where her clothes were found.

The coroner confirms what Brody suspects: a shark attack.

Brody wants to close the beach to protect the public. The town council and businesses forbid him to do that.

When the shark kills again, this time with witnesses, Brody blames himself for lacking the guts to stand up for his convictions.

The rest of the novel focuses on Brody’s ham-fisted attempt to protect public safety and recover his self-respect.

A young shark expert from Woods comes to look for the big white. Up the coast a 50-something fishing charter operator sees the financial possibilities of shark-searching.

Benchley blends shark facts with keen observation of people. Jaws isn’t quite Greek tragedy, but it’s a ladder above most of the pop fiction of the ’70s.

Jaws: A Novel by Peter Benchley
Doubleday, 1974, 311 p.
1974 bestseller #3. My grade: A-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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