Study Guide

Jaws Science

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When you talk about science in Jaws, you're really talking about Hooper (often with help from Chief Brody) and the struggle to use scientific knowledge against folk wisdom, willful ignorance, and even nature itself. But the limits of science are tested in various ways. On land, science is often ignored or distrusted by Amity's residents, who are ruled by emotion and tradition. At sea, the shark's behavior presents a variable that science has a hard time making sense of. Most of Hooper's fancy equipment fails them in the end until Brody uses an air tank in a creative way. And of course, Hooper's scuba gear saves his own life. The conflict between intellect vs. instinct, and between science and tradition, are personified in the relationship between Quint and Hooper.

Questions About Science

  1. What does the film suggest about science's usefulness (or lack thereof)?
  2. At the time Jaws was made, the general public didn't understand much about sharks. Would Jaws have been a hit if it had come out today, when public awareness of the science of sharks is much more common? How does science influence our ability to feel mystery, fear, and awe?
  3. Does Hooper conform to the stereotype of a scientist?
  4. Why does Quint seem to have so much contempt for Hooper's technology?

Chew on This

Several of Stephen Spielberg's filmmaking choices in Jaws seem to pooh-pooh rigorous science in favor of a primitive use of force.

Jaws demonstrates the ultimate victory of science while acknowledging its limitations.

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