On the Beach
On the Beach, written by British-Australian novelist Nevil Shute is a post-apocalyptic novel that conceptualized the end of the world through the after effect of a nuclear war. Published in 1957, the plot of the story focused on the southern hemisphere in Australia where the people continued their daily lives despite the eminent death beset upon them when the southern wind carrying the lethal radiation reach their country within six months.
The nuclear war actually destroyed the Northern hemisphere killing all living things, and subsequently was initiated by Albania that eventually ignited an Arab-Israeli war followed by the war between Russia and the NATO member countries that consequently led to a war between China and Russia. By the end of the war, the United States mistakenly bombed Russia. Most of the people living in Southern Australia have no idea of the actual accounts of the war in the Northern hemisphere and they continued their daily activities as if nothing happened and will happen.
Children attending to school and church, doctors and surgeons performing medical surgeries ironically to lengthen a life with an inevitable death in the end, the busy market place, and bicycles and horses are being used for transportation due to the lack of supply of gasoline. Instead of rioting on the streets and conducting unjust or unlawful practices, the people calmly continued on with their lives1. The only most despicable act committed by majority of the people is to drink excessively and literally pass-out on the street.
Nobody, including the policeman, paid attention if somebody fell down and lay on the street. The novel has several definitive characters upon which the plot of the story revolves. These characters showed the different emotional manifestations of the impending death when the 1 Straub, Jeanie. ”On the Beach by Nevil Shute. ” Parker Library, June 28, 2007. http://denver. yourhub. com/Parker/Stories/Books/Book-review/Story~328025. aspx nuclear radiation reaches the Southern Hemisphere.
Dwight Towers is a nuclear submarine commander and together with his crew is a refuge from his devastated country, United States. A loving father to his family, he even immortalized his wife and children believing that they are still alive even though nobody survived on the Northern Hemisphere, specifically on the Connecticut area. He still prepares and buys presents for his wife and children (his last comprised of jewelry for his wife and a pogo stick, which Moira had bought on a store and engraved the name of his daughter).
On a desperate attempt of the Government to seek possible survivors, Dwight headed the crew to investigate signs of life and the level of radiation on the different ports of the Northern hemisphere, as well as to investigate an obscure Morse code emanating also on the same area. As his crew reached the United States West Coast, Yeoman Swain (one of the crew member) jumped and swims ashore. He insisted the he wants to die on his native land.
Upon their journey, they eventually discovered only a dog survivor, an increasing level of radiation which is contradictory to the “Jorgensen Effect” which claims that the level of radiation would eventually decrease because of the weather condition, and the generated Morse code emanates from the Seattle area and is caused by the window shade hitting a telegraph as the breeze of the wind blows2. Dwight, together with his crew, returned to Southern Australia with no positive results of possible salvation.
Eventually, he returned with flu and stayed at Moira’s farm to recuperate. Another main character on the story is Moira Davidson. She is a party fanatic and resorted to alcohol to forget her desperation of not being able to pursue her dreams because of the nuclear war. She dreamed of travelling to different places around the world and the agony of an 2 SparkNotes, “Literature Study Guide: On the Beach”, http://www. sparknotes. com /lit/onthebeach/summary. html impending death without any hope made her desperate.
She actually fell in love with Dwight Towers and wanted to spend the remaining time of her life with him. Lt. Cmd. Peter Holmes is another character in the story and he has a wife, named Mary, and a daughter. Since the Government has produced self inducing poison pills, on a legal basis, just to give the people a prerogative to shorten their anguish on an eminent but painful and slow death due to the nuclear radiation, Holmes had an idea to commit such to his family.
He instructed Mary, who is quite childish and immature to face the fact, to take the poison pills and to their daughter just in case his voyage with Dwight is not successful and he will not be able to return home. Some characters in the story portrayed different manifestations on how they coped up with the situation. Such as scientist John Osborne and others organized a racing event, the Australian Grand Prix, which Osborne always dreamed of winning. During the event, some racers took the risk and loss their lives.
Fortunately for Osborne, he did win the race. At the end, Dwight decided to be with his crew and his nuclear submarine. He did not wait for the nuclear radiation but descended his crew and submarine to the deep ocean. Moira watched on the cliff while the submarine of Dwight descended towards the ocean, and then afterwards took her life by taking poison pills. Peter had induced to his daughter the poison pills and then later he and Mary took the same pills while inside their room. Their dead body lay beside to their daughter.
Other citizen took the poison pills while others waited for the coming of the nuclear radiation from the Northern hemisphere. Though the book, “On the Beach” effectively described the emotional dilemma of the characters involved in the plot, there are few points to consider on the book. There are several discomfited and errors in the construction of sentences and these sometimes distract the flow of the story. Also, since the book is written during the 1950’s, some of the words or terms used are not of relevance in today’s world.
The author also exhibited certain ironies on the story for instance: Moira’s first acquaintance with Dwight is just to keep his mind off on his deceased family in America, but Moira ended up being the one to emotionally break down. Others plan their lives but aware that they will not be alive to keep it, just like what Peter and Mary are planning with their garden. The book can be considered an emotional story that depicts the different actions or reactions of the people on an impending death. Different characters portrayed several reactions to the situations that have relevance.
Dwight Towers portrayed sense of nationality by facing death with his military naval command. He showed a sense of hope by leading the expedition to the Northern hemisphere to trace possible survivors or signs of life. His crew also investigated the amount of nuclear radiation present for a hope that the “Jorgensen effect” is true. But unfortunately none of his “hoped” turned on a positive context and they went home empty handed. The will to change exhibits Moira’s attitude towards the end since before taking her own life, she enrolled and lessen her alcohol intake.
The unconditional love for the family, courage, sacrifices, and Peter and his wife Mary characterize facing the reality. Though he induced to them the poison pill, upon which for a father is very difficult to commit, he showed strength and courage to face death before hand. The will to win exhibits the point of view of scientist John Osborne since he always dreamed of becoming a Grand prix winner; he showed that despite that all of the achievements will be forgotten, the desire to obtain something regardless of the outcome can be reached through determination and will to win.
Other exhibits the character of calmness, faith, and patience since the nuclear radiation will reach the Southern hemisphere in six months, instead of panicking, the people continued their way of lives as if nothing will happen. And lastly, the concept of openness exhibit the action of the Government by allowing poison pills to be taken by the people who did not want to experience the painful and slow death caused by the radiation. The author, Nevil Shute, have significantly portrayed what could possibly happen in the event of a nuclear war.
The immediate destructions are horrific, as well as the post nuclear effects. The radiation caused by the nuclear bombs will be the last weapon to make the human race and all living creatures in the planet extinct. The hopeless situation and the emotional stress beset upon the survivors of the nuclear war can take its toll. But the citizen of Southern Australia, the lone country not affected by the war and the place of the only survivors, has continued their natural way of living.
The main characters exhibit different characteristics and behavior on how to respond to such seemingly hopeless situation and eminent death. The character of hope, courage, love, will to win, will to change, and openness are the defining traits that can be noticed on the main characters of the story. The story can also be considered relevant in today’s nuclear arms race. Countries that develop such should be aware of the possible accidents, and misusage of one of the most powerful weapon ever built on bringing it to war.
Thus, the narrative and emotional story of Nevil Shute “On the Beach” typifies facing death: hopeless and eminent. Just like on the beach, the serene of peace can be felt, but ironically for the author, the peace that comes before the people of Southern hemisphere is an inevitable death that cannot be denied. Bibliography Straub, Jeanie. ”On the Beach by Nevil Shute. ” Parker Library, June 28, 2007. http://denver. yourhub. com/Parker/Stories/Books/Book-review/Story~328025. aspx SparkNotes, “Literature Study Guide: On the Beach”, http://www. sparknotes. com /lit/onthebeach/summary. htmlSample Essay of StudyFaq.com