I think I was probably nine years old the last time I saw Jaws. Certainly, I was far too young to appreciate the fascinating sub-text of “hard science” (Richard Dreyfuss’ Dr. Matt Hooper) versus “conventional wisdom” (Robert Shaw’s Quint). The struggle is an intense one that I never caught before and have never really heard anyone else discuss1. This whole conflict seems to start with Quint’s introduction and plays out mostly through Chief Brody’s attempts to come to terms with how best to handle the town’s situation vis a vis The Shark. But man does that clash really come to light when the Hooper and Quint compare scars on the boat. We have a nice build with respect to the tension between them but it really pops to the surface with Quint’s rambling about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis:
June the 29th, 1945. 1100 men go into the water, 335 come out. Sharks took the rest. But we delivered the bomb.2
Wow. That’s pretty intense. If you break it down in a scene-by-scene manner, you can see the macho bravado shining through. Even our sensible and sane and scientific Hooper goes to great lengths to impress Quint with his strength and seamanship. Naturally, Quint is unimpressed; after all, it’s not what you know or what you claim to be capable of, it’s what I’ve seen you do. (But this is strictly between Hooper and Quint.) But when they’re comparing scars and this nugget comes out about the Indianapolis and how “we delivered the bomb” — well, that just sums it all up.
- Not that I’ve really discussed Jaws with anyone in… Well… Probably ever. [↩]
- I’ve come to discover (however) that this is a paraphrasing of a passage from Doug Stanton’s In Harm’s Way. [↩]