Study Guide

Jaws Society and Class

Society and Class

BRODY: You live here?

CASSIDY: Nah, Hartford. I go to Trinity. My folks live in Greenwich.

BRODY: Your folks were born here, right?

CASSIDY: Yeah, I'm an islander. They moved off when my Dad retired. You an islander?

BRODY: No, New York State.

The screenwriters introduce the islander/outsider thing early in the script. Being an islander means being born there; living there doesn't count. Even being Chief of Police doesn't count. You can move away and still be an islander.

CITIZEN: Hey Chief, Chief, Chief! I was trying to find ya Chief, there's a damn truck with New Hampshire plates on it smack in front of my store!

Here's another illustration of the islander/outsider conflict. Would the guy have been as bothered if the truck had Massachusetts plates? Ask anyone who lives in a resort community like this, and they'll tell you it's a dilemma. They can't survive economically without the tourists, but they don't like the traffic, litter, noise, lack of parking, and other inconveniences that tourists bring along with their money. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Plus, the tourists probably have way more money than the islanders who are waiting on their tables and cleaning their hotel rooms. Another reason why they're suspicious and resentful of them.

VAUGHN: We're really a little anxious that you're, uh, you're rushing into something serious here. It's your first summer y'know.

Mayor Vaughn could hardly say it any more clearly: Don't rock the boat, buddy. You don't know what you're talking about. He's right that Brody probably doesn't yet appreciate how tourism is the lifeblood of the island. Vaughn uses this argument a lot—that Brody's an outsider, that he doesn't get it. The pressure Chief Brody feels to give the town leaders what they want will be a constant struggle until the final act of the film.

BEN MEADOWS: But we never had that kind of trouble in these waters.

This line sums up how the townspeople generally feel about the shark: It's never happened before, so they don't want to believe it's happening now. Bad things like that just don't happen in their town. Is it hard to believe they could have this attitude? Hooper is up against some pretty rigid thinking.

VAUGHN: I don't think you appreciate the gut reaction people have to these things. […] Martin, it's all psychological. You yell "barracuda," everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell "shark!" and we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

Mayor Vaughn is hyper-sensitive about using the word "shark," but he has a pretty good grasp on how the people in his town, especially the tourists, are going to react. His town depends on tourism to survive, so he has to manage those tourists carefully.

ELLEN: When do I get to become an islander?

COUNCILWOMAN: Ellen, never! Never! You're not born here, you're not an islander.

Do you think it's really true that the Brody family will never become "islanders"? Ironically, we detect a New York accent in the councilwoman's speech; she doesn't seem like a native either. Our guess is that she's just repeating what she thinks the locals think.

VAUGHN: Look, we depend on the summer people here for our very lives. […] And if you close those beaches, we're finished! […] I don't think either one of you are familiar with our problems!

Mayor Vaughn is turning the island's economic survival into a literal life-or-death situation. Brody and Vaughn are responding to two very different demands. Hooper, who's a complete outsider, doesn't care one bit about the economic consequences of closing the beaches. He's more rational than either of the other two.

VAUGHN: [T]omorrow is the Fourth of July! And we will be open for business. It's gonna be one of the best summer we ever had! Now if you fellas are concerned about the beaches, you do whatever you have to to make them safe. But those beaches will be open for this weekend!

Some film analysts have likened the Mayor's cover-up of the shark attack to the Watergate cover-up that had taken place a few years earlier. So Vaughn would be a stand-in here for powerful politicians who strong-arm people into doing their bidding. Brody sure doesn't want to lose his new job in this island paradise.

QUINT: You got city hands, Mr. Hooper. You've been counting money all your life.

HOOPER: All right, all right. Hey! I don't need this! I don't need this working class hero crap!

Here's a really explicit reference to the class divide between Hooper and Quint. Which of the two do you think is more intimidated? What other factors complicate the class issues at play between Hooper and Quint?

HOOPER: Quint, that doesn't prove a damn thing.

QUINT: Well it proves one thing Mr. Hooper. It proves that you wealthy college boys don't have the education enough to admit when you're wrong.

This is one of the first instances of crazy Quint actually making some sense. Hooper doesn't like it one bit. Fact is, both Quint and Hooper are experts, but Quint has 25 years' experience on Hooper. Hooper just sees him as out-of-touch and behind the times.

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