The biggest differences between the movie and the book

Without the title, there would be little to suggest that Jawsthe film, is an adaptation of Jawsthe Pierre Benchley novel. Motivations, character traits, subplots, duration of appearances; even the themes differ between the page and the screen. The film is hailed as one of the best in Hollywood history, while the book has been largely forgotten, not helped by the author distancing himself from it in the following years. Famously, the rights to the film adaptation were bought before the book was even released, with Benchley allowing the first crack in the script. Steven Spielberg, however, simply disliked Benchley’s script and brought in others to make the script fit his vision. And so our story (tail?) begins.


Some changes Spielberg made were minor compared to others. There are three Brody children in the book, but only two in the movie. At Mrs. Kintner’s (Lee Fiero) echoing Chief Brody’s slap (Roy Scheider) in the movie (17 sockets in all) is not in the book at all, only a verbal confrontation between her and Brody. Speaking of the chef, the Brody book is from Amity, not a New Yorker like the Brody movie. The Orca returns every night in the novel, but in the film, the Orca and its three-man crew remain on the ocean. The shark in the movie is killed on the third day of the hunt, not the fourth day as it is on the page.

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A dated book, a timeless film

There’s a minor change from the book Spielberg did that, in hindsight, becomes a progressively wiser choice. Benchley’s novel contains nasty homophobic and racial overtones, which clearly haven’t aged well. For example, one character explicitly fears that if the city loses money, it will be known as “Harlem by the Sea”. In all honesty, it’s unclear if Benchley’s script contained these elements, but Spielberg’s decision to keep that out of the movie was just smart, adding a timeless quality to the movie that instantly dates the book.

Friendly characters

One of Spielberg’s biggest problems, and the first major change, was character likability. Long story short, you want the shark to eat the characters from the book. Brody in the book is Amity born and raised, with no water phobia (except the fear of being alone in water – we’ll get to that), and he’s short-tempered and violent. Brody movie? From New York, a good family man, deeply afraid of water and easier to understand. Book Hooper is charmless and selfish, while Quint (Robert Shaw) in the movie is softer if you can believe it, whereas it’s much crueler in the book (and no epic talk about the USS Indianapolis in the book).

Ellen Brody is also a much more complex and flawed character, with a bigger presence in the book. Ellen is part of an unnecessary subplot in the book where she has an affair with Hooper, who happens to be the younger brother of an old flame. This grew out of Ellen questioning her marriage to Brody, which in turn leads to Brody trying to strangle Hooper. Movie Ellen (Lorraine Gary), despite his small presence, still leaves an indelible mark on the film, a loving and supportive partner whose interaction with Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is limited to thanking him for bringing wine and a sweet malapropism: “My husband says you’re into sharks.”

The Mafia

A number of key plot points from Benchley’s novel were also not included in the final cut of the film. Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) in the film watches over the well-being of the city, aware that a bad summer tourist season has serious consequences for the city during the winter. He’s no villain – a shark attack has never happened in the area before, and without hard evidence there’s no reason to suggest it will happen again. The book, however, paints a very different picture of the mayor. Vaughn’s interest in keeping the beaches open has little to do with helping the city: Vaughn has mob ties, and it’s the mob that’s pressuring the mayor, who has a debt to the mob and must keep the beaches open to keep the mafia-held real estate in the area from losing value.

The mob connection is discovered in the book by local newspaper editor Harry Meadows, which helps keep news of the first shark attack out of the public eye (and makes Brody the scapegoat when the second attack happens). produced), but in the film, Grasslands (Carl Gottlieb) has a much, much smaller role, where he and the mayor confront Brody on the ferry. The divide between rich tourists and poor islanders is much wider in the book, with the islanders so afraid of losing tourists’ money that they mangle Brody’s cat for even suggesting the beaches be closed.

The end

The end of the film compared to the end of the book is radically different. The film ends on a positive note, although almost impossible, Remark. Despite the destruction of the shark cage, Hooper escapes and remains alive. Quint falls victim to the beast, Brody stuffs a tank in his mouth, and as he runs towards him, he fires a million shot which blasts the shark to pieces. Hooper surfaces and the two paddle back to shore. The end of the book is more abrupt, realistic and psychological. Hooper is a victim of the shark, not (yet) Quint. Quint pumps a number of harpoons into the shark as it charges towards Brody, who stops short of reaching Brody before he dies and sinks. Unfortunately, one of the harpoon ropes is tied around Quint’s leg, so he is dragged into the sea with the monster – his latest victim. This leaves Brody alone on the sea, the one thing he fears the most.

After all is said and done, the biggest difference between the two is in theme. Spielberg’s view is man versus nature, emphasizing the relevance and danger of the shark and the need to stop it before it does more harm. The book, however, is more man vs. greed, with the danger of the shark set aside in order to keep the tourism money coming in, to keep the beaches open. The mayor and townspeople are so focused on summer money to survive that they have lost their humanity, where the right choice causes outrage instead of action. What they do share, however, is a desire to entertain their audiences, and both mediums largely succeed in doing so.

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