JAWS: The Book vs. The Movie

The influence of Peter Benchley’s classic story has spanned over decades, enticing more and more aquatic-minded fans of every age group. Which begs the question – is the book more successful, or the adapted movie? Keep reading to find out!

Summary and Analysis

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Jaws by Peter Benchley

The plot of the source material is set in a fictional subset of The Hamptons called Amity with Martin Brody, an ambitious and law-abiding cop, as its central character. There are recent reports of shark killings in the area, and while Brody is insistent on closing the beaches down to ensure the safety f the visiting tourists and local citizens, the mayor of Amity, Larry Vaughn, recklessly chooses to keep them open as he and his peers are quite aware of the openly present and secret implications alike that could ensue were they to close down.

A trio between Brody, shark hunter Quint and Matt Hooper, a specialized zoologist, forms to find the sea predator and kill it. But even through a series of executed plans, the shark still wins before meeting its ultimate fate, eating everyone except Brody.

The movie, one of director Steven Spielberg’s earlier projects, takes place in a slightly different area than Long Island, instead centering in Amity Island, New England. Martin Brody is still the protagonist, and still ends up meeting with the other two men, Hooper and Quint, within the storyline.

There are certain other similarities such as the plans to trap and kill the shark, and Quint and Hooper having their petty tiffs with one another while out at sea. Larry Vaughn is seen in a different, less selfish and criminal-supported light than in the book. There’s a twist at the end where instead of Brody left as the lone survivor of the final shark attack, both he and Hooper end up living to tell the tale. More or less, there are some scenes slightly changed with dialogue, or left out to save screen time.

Other parts are more embellished due to the visual overview. Spielberg made sure to also get rid of any dated and politically incorrect undertones that were in the original text, likely to reach a much wider audience and to avoid possible – or eventual – backlash down the line.

Jaws Movie Poster
Jaws Movie Poster

Financial-wise, the novel and movie have done well. Benchley’s original novel racked up over 40 weeks on the bestseller list, while the movie made a whopping $476 million at the box office. In terms of critical review, the movie has done much better in this regard as opposed to the book. In fact, Peter Benchley himself has been known to distance himself overtime from his original work. However, the audience point of view is largely subjective.


Overall, the novel gave a general message of humans and their fixation with perilous situations involving wild animals. The movie gives the message of humans acting as the ‘good guys’, and the sharks seen as mindless, vengeful carnivores.

Though, again, this can be subjective depending on one’s point of view. Whether the film or original book is preferred among fans, JAWS remains one of the most well-known cult classics of all time, with more and more audiences catching onto it even in the present day.

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