Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Beast

Go To

A 1991 novel by Peter Benchley (author of Jaws), Beast deals with a series of attacks on Bermudan shipping and swimmers by a hungry (and aggressive) giant squid. It was adapted into a film in 1996 under the slightly changed name of The Beast.

In both versions, the main character is Whip Darling, a longtime Bermuda fisherman. Despite his occupation, Whip deeply loves the ocean and the creatures in it, and has no respect for those who refuse to fish sustainably. He is also a realist, and makes every effort to steer clear of the would-be squid hunters, correctly predicting that such an expedition can only end in failure. Eventually however, Whip's need for money causes him to be drawn into the expedition, alongside longtime friend Marcus, Canadian scientist Dr. Herbert Talley, and Corrupt Corporate Executive Osborn Manning, leading to a final, climactic confrontation with the monster.

Tropes appearing in this novel include:

  • Always a Bigger Fish: Whip and his human allies' efforts to kill the squid fail entirely, but they are saved from death at the last moment when an equally gigantic sperm whale erupts from the ocean and seizes the squid in its jaws.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The extremely misguided "Save-The-Squid" crowd. As Whip puts it, "Architeuthis dux is doing a fine job of saving itself."
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The squid is eventually revealed to be over a hundred feet long. In a case of Science Marches On, the current maximum size of a giant squid is less than half this, though that's still one very big cephalopod.
  • Ax-Crazy: The squid behaves quite violently when killing.
  • A Beast in Name and Nature: The eponymous giant squid, a creature definitely deserving of the name for its brutality and destructive power.
  • Chainsaw Good: After the squid sinks the boat, Whip fends it off with a chainsaw, severing several of its limbs, before the monster disarms him.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: A surprisingly sympathetic version. Osborn Manning has a lot of money and he certainly throws his weight around, what with blackmailing Whip into helping him. That said, he's also got a very understandable motivation: his son and daughter were killed by the squid and he wants revenge.
  • Corrupt Politician: Liam St. John is a classic case, using his Ph.D. (the only one on the island) to lever himself into every marine affair in Bermuda, and rake in as much publicity and grift as he can. That is, until he decides to turn the squid into another publicity stunt, and the squid gets other ideas.
  • Death of a Child: Osborne Manning's twin kids are killed and devoured by the squid.
  • Deus ex Machina: The squid sinks Whip's boat, kills Osborn Manning, and nearly gets Talley, Marcus, and Whip when a sperm whale erupts out of the water and tears it in half.
  • Developing Doomed Characters:
    • The beginning of the novel spends a lot of time discussing the nearly-20 year marriage of the couple out sailing. Presumably to make the reader really feel the loss when they're killed by the creature.
    • It gets personal for Whip when his first mate, Mike, is abruptly pulled off Whip's boat and eaten by the squid.
  • Eaten Alive: The fate of anyone with the extreme misfortune to run into the squid when it's hungry. Thankfully, the book's got quite a few literary Gory Discretion Shots once the squid gets its hooks into someone.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The squid is dead, yet as the epilogue shows, more and more of them are being born every year and surviving to adulthood due to their predators being overfished.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Put chum or other food in the water, and the squid gets very easily confused as to what's organic and what's inorganic, which leads to multiple boat attacks and proves fatal for everyone aboard the submersible, too.
  • Foreshadowing: Mike, Whip's first mate, is wholly freaked out by the very idea of the squid, in a way far out of character for him. Turns out he was right to be afraid.
  • For the Evulz: The description of the squid?
    "It existed to survive. And to kill. For, peculiarly — if not uniquely — in the world of living things, it often killed without need, as if Nature, in a fit of perverse malevolence, had programmed it to that end."
  • Gaia's Vengeance: Why is the squid here? Well largely because we've killed off most of the animals that eat them when they're babies (tuna, sharks, sea turtles), and most of the animals that eat them when they're adults (sperm whales), and all the food at the bottom of the ocean that they normally eat. That's right kids: we're increasing the numbers of one of the few animals that can fight us on relatively even terms. This is actually to some degree realistic, as with many other aspects about the Squid.
  • Giant Squid: The titular "beast" is a hundred-foot squid, which wreaks havoc on the area.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Marcus' girlfriend was killed by a box jellyfish. He's pretty much defined by it. And then, just as it seems he might be moving on with photographer Stephanie, she's killed by the squid.
  • It's Personal: Manning has a vendetta against the squid for the death of his children. Averted by Talley (whose interest is scientific, if somewhat obsessive) and Whip, who in the novel wants nothing to do with the squid hunt, even after Mike's death and has to literally be blackmailed into joining.
  • "Jaws" First-Person Perspective: Much of the novel is from the point of view of the squid.
  • The Juggernaut: The squid. This isn't too far off from Real Life either. There really isn't much that human made weapons can do to an animal that's that big and has no bones or easily targetable organs.
  • Karmic Death: It is heavily implied that the whale that kills the squid is the mother of the baby one that it devoured earlier.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Talley (an actual expert in squid) finds himself being lectured on the subject by St. John, noting that most of what St. John is saying is Urban Legend or straight up guesswork at best.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Liam St. John finally pulls one know-it-all publicity stunt too many, toys with the monster, and gets himself, Marcus' new girlfriend, Whip's first mate, and everyone else on the submersible killed. Even in death, he made sure to take just about everyone you came to care about with him.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: "Doctor" Liam St. John, who left the island for a few years and came back calling himself a doctor, though is very vague/inconsistent about what he's actually a doctor of, or where he graduated from.
  • Mythology Gag: Whip mocks Jaws, one of Benchley's other works, as being BS — essentially an Author Tract, as Benchley himself came to regret the horribly bad rap Jaws gave Great White Sharks.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The Manning twins are a millionaire's kids who are going on a fairly expensive vacation. They are nice towards Lucas their diving guide.
  • Not Enough to Bury: The only remains of the Manning children that Whip finds are a torn-off wetsuit hood — with a single human eye in it.
  • Poisoned Weapons: The only way that people can kill the squid. St. John uses a poisoned harpoon and a giant poisoned bang stick, Osborn Manning uses an AK-47 in which phosphorus bullets have been replaced with cyanide.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Whip is especially annoyed by Liam St. John pronouncing his last name "sinjin", like a Brit.
  • Revenge: Osborn Manning wants it on the squid, which had killed his children earlier. This ultimately gets him killed too.
  • Science Is Bad: Whip chastises himself for putting faith in science, saying "The only thing scientists admit is what they know. What they don't know — what might be, all the stuff in the in the realm of the possible but unproven — they dismiss as myth." On the other hand, Dr. Talley averts this, and is as helpful as he can be.
  • Self-Deprecation: Whip at one point mocks Jaws, another of Benchley's works. This is partially because Benchley came to regret the bad reputation he unintentionally gave Great White Sharks.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of stuff concerning the squid is actually true and well researched. Over 20 years later and a lot of it still holds up, and even what doesn't simply applies to a different species of gigantic squid.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The squid ends up like this after Manning, Talley, and Whip first trick it into believing there's a mate nearby, and then try to kill it. In general, it's also one of the only sea animals that generally will not leave you alone if you leave it alone — it's extremely aggressive when hungry, which is almost all of the time.
  • Tentacled Terror: The Giant Squid, a hundred-foot beast which has wreaked havoc on the cast.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Liam St. John, who first tries to kill the squid with dynamite, then rents a submarine... and promptly wastes one of his weapons on killing a shark instead of on the squid, leading to his death and that of his entire crew.
  • Tragic Monster: The squid may be big, violent, and destructive, but Benchley makes a point of showing that it's only an animal in an unfamiliar environment, doing what it has to in order to eat.