Does the "Jaws" Shark Have the Eyes of God?

This question probably seems outrageous, but I think there's something to it. Peter Mathieson, for example, described the eye of the great white shark as "impenetrable and empty as the eye of God" (Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark). In Jaws, Quint (the fisherman) similarly emphasizes the impenetrable emptiness of the shark's eyes when he says, "You know the thing about a shark? He's got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye." 
So perhaps Quint, too, saw the shark as a kind of Godmasterful, inscrutable, mysterious.

The best indication that Quint held this view comes from Captain Ahab, Quint's obvious predecessor in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

When Ahab's first mate tells him that it's madness to seek revenge on Moby Dick, a "dumb brute" who attacked him out of blind instinct, this is how Ahab responds:
All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event...some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me.
In other words, Ahab wants to find God by destroying this surface "mask," Moby Dick. Killing the whale is a religious quest for Ahab.

It seems Quint, too, wants to "strike through the mask," to see whether God lies behind the shark's indifferent facade, those empty, lifeless eyes. Quint certainly doesn't lack other reasons for wanting to kill Jaws: survivor guilt, desire to reunite with his war buddies by experiencing death the way they did (just before he's eaten by the shark, Quint puts on his old war jacket and burns out the motor of the ship, so there can be no return to shore). But Quint also seems to be in the grips of an Ahab-like desire to see what lies on the other sideto experience the mysteries of the universe through violent, religious ecstasy.
USS Indianapolis, Wikipedia, Navy Photo 80-G-425615

In fact, Quint already tread the outer limits of the known world during the days and nights of shark attacks after the USS Indianapolis sank (a real historical event described chillingly by Quint in the middle of this fictional movie). 

Quint found his boatswain's mate somehow both alive and dead at the same time: "I thought he was asleep. Reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water like a kinda' top. Well, he'd been bitten in half below the waist." Quint's experience here dances on the thin line between life and death, and questions the relationship between the two. Surrounded by death, the mate seems alive, but only half-way, since sleeping is a mini-death that we all experience at nightexcept this soldier turns out to be truly dead. In trying to wrap his mind around this surreal mixture of death and life, Quint is like soldiers who say paradoxical things about war, such as "you never feel so alive as when you're about to die."

Understanding the connections between life and death is usually the domain of organized religion, but Quint is taking matters in his own hands. He's trying to see through the eyes of God.

Related Posts:
USS Indianapolis: What Survivor Tears Teach Us

What do Jaws and WWII Have in Common?

1 comment:

Christine Erikson (aka Justina) said...

the reason you never feel so alive as when about to die, or as a line in a song goes to really live you must almost die, is because you are going to be tanked up on adrenaline. nothing all that mystical about it. However, some may interpret it
as a mystical experience. you also, by reason of being so close to death, might appreciate being aive all that more, something you had hitherto took for granted.

meanwhile, just because something is inscrutable and so forth doesn't mean it is God or that God hides behind it, though there is a certain very limited truth to what Ahab says, it is more like what lies behind events, not the creatures themselves who are just creaturesand not the Creator.