Welcome back to the Jaws universe and the second part of my characterisation study.
I trust that you haven’t had any shark problems between then and now…I’ve been swimming in the sea between posts and managed to thoroughly creep myself out at the sight of a triangular shaped buoy!
Part one focused on two important questions:
- What are the characters like?
- How do we know this?
Although there are many others I could explore, I’ve chosen the one I feel most useful, casting my net wider (no pun intended) to include the characters of Hooper and Quint. The question is:
- How do the protagonists interact (and are seen by each other)?
I read an Empire article by Ian Freer which interestingly described the characters of Brody, Hooper and Quint as the ‘The Holy Trinity’ or the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively. This is symbolically represented in the opening credits where the actors are credited together in one shot, forming the shape of a triangle.
It’s evident then from the very beginning that the three men are almost mystically linked despite an uneasy alliance in which contrasting personalities threaten to pull them apart.
So let’s take a look at each character combination.
Brody and Hooper
Despite their differences and occasional bickering, Brody’s relationship with Hooper is one of friendship. We know this based on their positive interactions and shared sense of humour.
Hooper never imposes his academic knowledge upon Brody simply to impress him, using it only to inform when necessary. He also resists trying to ‘educate’ him in terms of his behaviour.
One evening when Hooper goes to Brody’s house after supper with two bottles of wine, the marine biologist’s refinement reveals itself when Brody tips the wine into a large glass, filling it up unceremoniously like a pint of beer.
At first Hooper holds out his hand and says: ‘you may wanna let that breathe.’ But when Brody refuses he draws back and doesn’t make an issue of it; accepting the way Brody wants to drink the wine rather than how one ‘should’ drink it.
In the same way that Hooper accepts Brody for the person he his, Brody appears to offer the same to Hooper. When the police chief asks the latter about who paid for his boat and expensive equipment, he doesn’t hold a grudge when he reveals his wealth:’I paid for this mostly myself actually.’
For this kind of relationship to work we have to presume that neither man is particularly judgemental and that they both have the self confidence not to project their insecurities onto others.
Brody and Hooper are bound together by the fact that they are both ‘outsiders.’ The islanders are unwilling to accept their authority or allow them to carry out their jobs satisfactorily; evidenced in a statement made by a lady on the beach: ‘you’re not born here, you’re not an islander. That’s it.’
This adds to the complication of finding and killing the shark. Before they can do this they have to work together to make the rest of the community take them seriously. This similarity creates a deep bond between these two ‘unlikely’ friends; a bond they will need to face greater challenges at sea.
Brody and Quint
Brody appears to regard Quint in the same way the rest of the community do: an eccentric, solitary fisherman, albeit one capable of killing the shark. He relies physically and emotionally upon him to a great extent at sea; the only times in which Brody comes into conflict with the fisherman being when he makes decisions without the consensus of the group.
In this way Quint can be said to represent disorder and unpredictability (the sea) while Brody represents order and stability (the land), conflict arising when the two opposing forces come together.
Quint accepts Brody primarily because of his working class roots, age and position. Although their relationship is far from perfect, it’s clear from the outset that Quint holds Brody in higher esteem than Hooper despite the latter being more experienced at sea.
We know this because we can compare his actions and behaviour toward them both. At first Brody is offered ‘drinks,’ Hooper is not; Quint has patience with Brody, such as when he teaches him how to tie a knot. He does not readily offer the same attention to Hooper.
Hooper and Quint
Hooper regards Quint in much the same way the audience do: a man who takes issue with age, so-called ‘inexperience’ and those from privileged backgrounds. Hooper doesn’t hate Quint however and even though he angers him, there’s also a sense of needing to prove a point to the fisherman.
A wonderful scene in the film shows Quint suck a can of beer dry and crumple it with his bare hands ‘like a man.’ The marine biologist follows suit, trying to match him in this simple act.
It seems that for Hooper, Quint represents experience and thus a physical embodiment of his internal obstacle: applying his academic knowledge to the real world and justifying its value.
Quint’s perception of Hooper is highly negative, something that progressively diminishes as act two unfolds. He consistently criticises the marine biologist, often without any basis in reality such as when he squeezes his hands and says: ‘city hands.’
In the same way Quint represents something symbolic for Hooper, the opposite is true as well.
Things start to make more sense after the fisherman tells his story of when, as a younger man he was charged along with the rest of his crew to deliver the Hiroshima bomb during WWII.
On the return journey a Japanese submarine sent two torpedoes to strike the USS Indianapolis and all the crew were forced to jump into the sea only to be devoured by tiger sharks. Quint survived but was evidently scarred by the event for the rest of his life.
From this story, we not only begin to understand Quint’s motivation for killing the shark, but perhaps also the reason for his dislike of Hooper. Hooper represents unspoiled youth, a young man who up until this point has only experienced the pleasures of life and its curiosities. Because of his wealth he also has choice.
Quint was forced into a very different kind of situation at a similar age and faced a trauma that has left him bitter ever since. Because of this he’s also perhaps envious of Hooper.
As previously mentioned, their relationship improves as the men spend more time together. Hooper’s academic background becomes part of Quint’s character development in terms of him embracing technology and ‘the future.’
Later in the film when all traditional resources have been exhausted, Quint is forced to accept a new point of view. He asks Hooper to try something ‘his way’ using high tech equipment to defeat the shark. As soon as he suggests this, we know that he’s on his way to completing his character arc.
Show Me the Way to Go Home
These character studies affirm something important about interaction in characterisation.
We can see that as individuals we’re made up of a particular chemical formula that reacts in different ways with different facets of another’s personality. As the characters in Jaws reveal, this is never going to be absolutely positive or absolutely negative even with people we strongly like or dislike!
Perhaps you and your boyfriend/girlfriend’s sense of humour is perfectly, effervescently matched but in terms of what you both consider ‘cleanliness’ there’s a violent reaction!
This kind of complexity within ourselves and with other people is what it means to be human and I’ve realised that if we can capture the essence of this, we’re well on our way to creating believable characters.
Writing this two-parter was probably the most enjoyable thing I’ve written for the blog so far, despite at times being as insurmountable as chasing the shark!
I got some really positive feedback from the first post and so I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to those who messaged me on Twitter and elsewhere for their support. If you’d like me to write something similar in the future (cough* Alien) I’d be more than happy to oblige. Just type your suggestions into the comments section below.
Well, after such an enormous post I guess there’s nothing more to say than ‘show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I wanna go to bed.’ I’ll leave you with a short clip of this iconic scene. Enjoy my friends and until next time,
References: all quotes taken from the original screenplay.