Jaws vs. Enemy of the People Essay
Approximately 88. 32% of world governments are corrupt. What classifies them as this? Perhaps it’s the inability to be truthful with the majority. The power within these governments does not corrupt, truth and fear corrupts them. Possibly the fear of a loss of power. The truth is what enlightens peoples’ actual feelings. It corrupts people, making them irrational and unpredictable in their behavior. Truth of a great white roaming the waters in Jaws is hard for authority figures, like the mayor, to grasp. Instead of polluting the water with a toxic agent, Spielberg polluted it with a gigantic shark.
Similar to An Enemy of the People, in Jaws, the residents of Amity Island on the Atlantic coast, who are dependent on the tourist trade for their livelihood, keep their beaches open in spite of warnings from Police Chief Martin Brody and scientist Matt Hooper that a gigantic great white shark roams the waters. In An Enemy of the People and Jaws, Jaws conveys a stronger message of truth to the audience through the visible danger of the infested waters overlooked by the authority figures of the town, demonstrating that the truth must not be hidden or diluted even if it counters the wishes of the authorities.
Although both mayors put the economic well being of their town above safety, mayor Larry Vaughn of Amity Island proceeded to keep the beaches open when the danger was much more apparent than that in An Enemy of the People. Mayor Larry Vaughn was faced with a decision at the beginning of Jaws. He could either admit that a terrible shark attack had occurred on his island and ruin the town’s prosperity for the summer, or suppress the real truth from the community in order to preserve their economic well being. In one aspect, Mayor Vaughn was self-centered.
He thought that if he let his economy prosper, he would most likely be re-elected in the next term. In An Enemy of the People, the Burgomaster had the same idea. The only difference is the perceived level of danger. Visibly seeing something has a much stronger impact on a person than just a report. Mayor Vaughn saw the remains of the young woman chewed to pieces. On the other hand, the Burgomaster was given a report by Dr. Stockmann that “proves beyond dispute the presence of putrefying organic matter in the water – millions of infusoria” (Ibsen 270).
The subtle nature of these bugs realistically would not alarm the townspeople as much. It is merely a report stating the facts. But for Mayor Vaughn, a great white shark makes it that much harder in hiding the truth. Although he was “acting in the best interests of the town”, he was putting the lives of his people in fate’s hands to preserve the town’s economy. Since the Burgomaster has only heard about these so-called “parasites” in the water, he has no visible evidence on hand to support his argument that there were no parasites.
With a logical argument, Mayor Vaughn convinced the town that a boat ran over the poor girl. His deceiving actions kept businesses running, beaches open, and tourists pouring in for the fourth of July. In An Enemy of the People, Billing says, “The baths are our city’s palpitating heart, I once ventured to call them in a convivial moment” (Ibsen 269). Just like the baths, the beaches are the palpitating heart of Amity Island. In a sense, Mayor Vaughn withheld the truth from the town to save the lives of people financially and disregarded the fact that people’s actual lives were at risk.
Through the consequences of lives being lost, Mayor Vaughn learned his lesson that the truth should not be concealed from the people. With no visible evidence besides a report of the baths infestation, it is the ambiguous behavior of the great white shark that conveys the stronger message that the truth should not be diluted. Animals of nature are wild, unpredictable, but smart. A shark, like the one in Jaws was underestimated at first. The naivety of Mayor Vaughn causes him to overlook the fact that he may be putting lives at risk by concealing the truth. Dr. Stockmann, oddly enough, parallels the shark in Jaws.
His actions are sudden, yet logical: “I must have the right to look my boys in the face when they have grown into free men” (Ibsen 284). He explains that for his family, he will fight no matter what. Like the shark is relentless in killing Amity natives, Dr. Stockmann is relentless when fighting for his view of the baths, and thinks he has the “real good of the town at heart”. After all, they both are an enemy of the people. While Dr. Stockmann and the shark are similar in some aspects, what the doctor is fighting for is far less dangerous than a shark on the loose.
The shark’s capricious behavior gives us the sense that he could attack at any moment, therefore making the situation more dangerous than before. This reinforces the idea that Jaws conveys this message that the truth should not be shrouded. The higher the danger level, the more of an impact this message of truth makes on you. The fact that the authorities would conceal this from the public is outrageous. The danger in Jaws is more overt, yet ambiguous than in An Enemy of the People. This kind of suspense never occurs in An Enemy of the People.
When someone hears about a shark attack, people are alarmed and distraught. But at first, in An Enemy of the People, the news of the baths is good news: “Here’s news. I can tell you, that will waken up the town! ” (Ibsen 269). Originally, there was no problem with being candid to the public, until the people of that small village in Norway realized the economic disparity it would bring. Although the doctor was ambiguous with his actions, the shark was even more. It attacked at random with intent to win every battle (feeding), whereas Dr.
Stcokmann’s approach to winning the battle with Burgomaster was more organized. The idea of this vicious shark roaming the water near Amity Island sends a much stronger message of being honest through the ambiguous and unpredictable nature of a wild animal. Through the visible danger of the infested waters overlooked by the authority figures of the town, Jaws conveys the message of truth substantially better than An Enemy of the People, demonstrating that the truth must not be concealed even if it counters the wishes of the authorities. The truth is a part of fate, rather something not to be altered.
When both Mayors decide to alter it, chaos breaks loose in their towns. The economic prosperity of their society came as the first priority, putting profits over safety. Jaws better displays this idea through the visible danger of a hungry great white roaming their waters. But ultimately, the truth is what corrupts people. When ideas are revealed which may hurt their power, there is no knowing what limits people will reach to in order to preserve themselves or their town. The power within these people does not corrupt, the truth and fear corrupts them, possibly the fear of a loss of power.