The Differences Between Jaws the Movie and the Jaws the Book

Jaws is an amazing movie. No doubt about it. In college I was so taken with it, that I kept a picture of Robert Shaw framed in my apartment for 4 years. Often it had a memorial candle burning below it. Much to the chagrin of my creeped-out roommates.

I still like to watch the movie every year and I have a well worn copy of the book that I pull out every other year. If you haven’t read the book, the difference can be quite shocking.

Here are just a few:

  • Amity is a town on Long Island in New York, not a town in New England.
  • Brody and his wife have three sons: Billy, Martin Jr. and Sean. In the movie, there are only two Brody children, Mike and Sean.
  • Hooper tries to kill the shark with a bangstick, but during the dive he is eaten. He survives in the film. In the original script Hooper would have also died in the film, but this was changed during production.
  • The mayor keeps the beaches open partly because of his Mafia ties.
  • Ellen has an affair with Hooper in the book.
  • The shark kills a boy and a senior citizen in one afternoon, but in the movie only the boy, Alex Kintner, is killed.
  • All events in the final reel of the film aboard the boat occur in one unbroken trip at sea, while in the novel the men safely return to Amity’s harbor several times.
  • Quint’s monologue about the USS Indianapolis is absent from the novel and the original screenplay.
  • The shark dies from being stabbed with a harpoon by Quint, and the novel ends with the shark approaching Brody as the boat sinks, but Brody has no weapon and the shark dies from the stab wounds. For the film, something with more visual impact was deemed necessary. Benchley disliked the change and claimed that the air tank explosion was unbelievable. In the Mythbusters’ JAWS Special, which aired during Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, the Mythbusters confirmed Benchley’s theory as the scene was deemed “busted,” due to the fact that in reality, the air tank would just fly around like a rocket after being punctured.
  • Quint’s foot becomes tangled in the barrel ropes and he is pulled underwater by the shark, drowning. In the film, he is eaten by the shark. Which is fun, because in the scene, Robert Shaw really goes for it.

If you are a fan of Jaws, do yourself a favor and pick up the book. I don’t think you will enjoy it as much as the film, but I think it adds a fun new component to all future watchings.

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