Study Guide

Jaws Science


BRODY: You know, Ellen, people don't even know how old sharks are. And I mean if they live two, three thousand years. They don't know!

Before Hooper (the science guy) arrives, Chief Brody's doing some research of his own. But he realizes almost from the get-go that science is limited—we actually don't know all that much about these mysterious creatures.

HOOPER: The torso has been severed in mid-thorax […] massive tissue loss in the upper musculature. […] Partially denuded bone remaining […] It indicates the non-frenzied feeding of a large squalus possibly Longimanus or Isurus glaucous.

With this scene Hooper quickly establishes his bona fides as the resident scientific authority. The guy's a total pro. If he can't help Chief Brody, nobody can. You gotta wonder, though—what would a frenzied feeding have left of Chrissie Watkins? Not much, we assume. (Shudder.)

HOOPER: Now, the enormous amount of tissue loss prevents any detailed analysis; however, the attacking squalus must be considerably larger than any normal squalus found in these waters.

Although Hooper acknowledges that this ain't your garden variety killer shark, he still uses scientific terminology, grounding his perspective in scientific reality—at least for now.

ELLEN BRODY: My husband tells me you're in sharks.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves: Hooper's the shark guy.

BRODY: Yeah, now this guy, he, he keeps swimming around in a place where the feeding is good, until the food supply is gone, right?

HOOPER: Yeah, it's called territoriality. It's just a theory that I happen to agree with.

Once again, Chief Brody is checking his own research against Hooper's expertise. He's done some homework. Both of them still see the shark as an animal, not as a monster.

BRODY: This is a great white Larry, a big one! And any shark expert in the world will tell you it's a killer! It's a man-eater! […]

HOOPER: It's a carcharodon carcharias. It's a great white!

This speech fails to move Mayor Vaughn. All the references to scientific classification, experts, etc., fall on deaf ears because Vaughn has other things on his mind, like fear of ruining the tourist season that the island depends on. He's a shark-attack denier.

HOOPER: Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks.

This nifty simplification of what a shark is has been a thorn in the side of every shark conservationist since 1975. But it demonstrates that Hooper thinks of the shark in terms of natural instincts, evolution, etc.

QUINT: Nowadays, these kids, they bring everything. Radar, sonar, electric toothbrushes. […] Yeah, that's real fine expensive gear you brought out here, Mr. Hooper! 'Course I don't know what that bastard shark's gonna do with it. Might eat it, I suppose.

Quint's dismissive of Hooper's super-scientific, Jacques Cousteau-like approach to catching the shark. Is he right? Is he just being stubborn and territorial? What in his experience might make him suspicious of technology?

QUINT: Hooper, what exactly can you do with these things of yours?

Contrast this quote with Quote #8 about radar, sonar, electric toothbrushes, etc. Why is Quint suddenly so willing to try out Hooper's scientific gear? See: Real men can admit they're wrong.

[The shark rams the shark cage, and Hooper's poisoned harpoon is knocked out of his hand, floating harmlessly away.]

This scene seems to illustrate the limits of technology against powerful natural forces. In the novel, the point's driven home even more forcefully—Hooper doesn't survive this attack. Spielberg didn't want to kill off the character, so he has Hooper survive via his scuba gear. So in this particular science vs. nature showdown, it's a draw.

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