Boekverslag : Nevil Shute - On The Beach
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- Nevil Shute (pseudonym off N.S. Norway)

- On the Beach

- My edition: 2003, published by Blackbirds Wolters-Noordhoff

- First publication 1957

- Novel

- The author:

Nevil Shute, who died in 1960 at the age of sixty, was born in London and educated at Oxford for a life in science. He won distinction in two specialized and demanding careers. As Nevil Shute Norway, aviation engineer, he founded his own aircraft company and worked on the development of secret weapons for the British in World War2. As Nevil Shute, novelist, he had been the author of some two dozen books which sold over 15.000.000 copies in all editions.

1 What is the theme of the story ?

The behaviour of people when they know that the end of human life is near and inevitable.

Exambel: Chapter 8 page 224 “ In Mary Holmes, garden the first narcissi bloomed on the first day of August, the day the radio announced, with studied objectivity, cases of radiation sickness in Adelaide and Sydney. The news did not trouble her particulary………….”We’ll have to dig them up in the autumn, after they die down, and separate them. Then we’ll get a lot more and put them along here. They’re going to look marvelous in a year or two.“ She paused in thought. “ We’ll be able to pick some then, and have them in the house.”

This quotation give’s a look to Mary’s behaving in point of view of the ending human life nearby.

Exambel: Chapter 8 page Dwight “When is the Grand Prix to be?” John Osborne the scientist

“I’m having a bit of row with them over that, they’ve got it down for Saturday fortnight, the 17th, but I think taht’s too late. I think we ought to run it on Saturday week, the 10th.”

This quotation give’s you the pont a view off John Osborne that he already accepted the idea that everybody will die soon.

2 Time:

The story starts at the beginning of the sixties. In 1957, when On the Beach was published, nuclear war was at the forefront of peoples minds. The Cold War between theE a s t e rn block and the West made the danger of warfrighteningly real, as both sides gathered arms and threatenedeach other.

3 Place of the story:

The action takes place in Australia, in the middle of this century. The exact location is unknown, but it's probably the southern part of this country. Most of the world has been destroyed after a nuclear war. Northern America, Europe, Africa and most of Asia and South America have become inhabitable, because of the nuclear radiation. All the people who lived there are dead. The only two places where life is still possible is Australia and the lower parts of Southern America.

4 Is the story chronological ?

In great lines it is, although the story starts a year after the beginning.

5 Storyteller:

The story is told in third person. Omniscient narrator.

6 Main characters:

Peter Holmes: an officer of the Scorpion, he is a nice guy, whom wants the best for everyone. For instance, when he went on a mission with the scorpion, he told Mary, his wife, what to do if he won't come back.

Dwight Tower: the captain of a nuclear powered submarine, called the Scorpion. He is very loyal to his wife and to the navy. He doesn't do things the Navy wouldn't permit, even during the last days he lives by the rules. He knows that his wife and children are dead, but he acts like they are still alive, for instance he buys presents for them.

Moira Davidson: She is a friend of Peter Holmes and meets Dwight through him. Dwight and she become close friends, but not lovers. She drinks a lot, because she wants to forget the misery and have fun.

7 Other characters

Mary Holmes is Peter's wife. She is the daughter of an officer from the Royal Australian Navy, so se understands why Peter has to do the things he does, although she doesn't always like it. She always calls Peter a bad father for his child. She lives in some sort of dreamworld. She doesn't want to talk about the things that are going to happen. She pretends they aren't there. She works most of the time in the garden. She is always talking about how beautiful the garden is going to be next year. Probably this is the way, she deals with the problems, she simply denies them or pretends they aren't there. She got very sick at the end, and also took the pill, because she didn't want to go on like this.

Moira Davidson has an eye on Dwight. She's a young girl. Before she met Dwight she only went to parties and drank a lot. The idea that life is over in a couple of months frightens her. She never thought about getting married and getting children, but after meeting Dwight she wants to marry him. But she knows that he is a 'married' man, so she accepts that this never will be reality. She pretends to understand the decision of Dwight, but actually she doesn't. She helps Dwight with his illusion that his wife and children are still alive. She makes Dwight's life much nicer, although he still wants to go back to his family. She takes the pill on the beach, while she is watching Dwight and his submarine, going on their last cruise.

John Osborne is a scientist, specialised in radio-active radiation. This is the reason that the Royal Australian Navy puts him on the Scorpion. He has to investigate the radiation during the missions of this submarine. He has a Ferrari, with which he likes to ride. It even becomes an obsession. He competes in races. The reason for him to do this, is the fact that he likes the feeling after he almost got killed. For him getting killed during a race is a much nicer death, than to die of radiation decease. He is family of Moira Davidson, he is her nephew. At the end he takes his pill in his Ferrari, that's the way he wanted to die; behind the steering wheel of his car.

8 Does the problem get resolved?

The problem doesn’t get resolved. The problem was the radioactive dust which would kill everybody in the world. The radioactive dust comes to the Melbourne, the last big city left, and all the maincharacters die. The story ends here.

9 What was special?

The ending of the story: Everybody lives in a dream world until the first cases of radiation sickness are reported in Melbourne. All maincharacters die with taking an pill after they choose there own time an place to die.

John Osborne wins the Grand Prix and takes his pill in his Ferrari. Page 271 t/m 272 For the last time he would sit in the driving seat and handle the controls. ……………………He took the red carton from his pocket, took the tablets from the vial, and threw the carton on the ground beside him. No point in going on; this was the way he’d like to have it. He took the tablets in his mouth, and swallowed them with an effort.

Peter gives the baby an injection and takes his pill together with Mary. Page 277 t/m 278 She was right, he thought; He gave the baby the injection in the arm…………..He drew her to him and kissed her. “I’ve had a grand time, too,”he said. “Let’s end on that.”They put the tablets in their mouths, and drank.

Dwight sinks his submarine several miles off the beach. Moira watches him leave and then takes a pill herself. Page 284 t/m 285 She sat there dumbly watching as the low grey shape went forward to the mist on the horizon, holding the bottle on her knee. This was the end of it, the very, very end……………………………….She took the cork out of the bottle. It was ten past ten. She said earnestly, “Dwight, if you’re on your way already, wait for me.” Then she put the tablets in her mouth and swallowed them dowm with a mouthful brandy, sitting behind the wheel of her big car.

10 Summary:

The story is set in the fictional future,and assumes that an atomic war has taken place. The atomicbombs and the fall-out have destroyed the nort h e rnhemisphere of the world. The radioactive dust is slowly movingsouth, killing everything in its path. Lieutenant Commander inthe Australian navy, Peter Holmes, is appointed liaison officeron board Scorpion, an atomic submarine. He is to work underAmerican Commander, Dwight Towers. The submarine is senton a short journey to investigate the eastern and northerncoasts of Australia, and a longer cruise to the north todetermine if there is any sign of life. The story focuses on fivemain characters – Peter, his wife, Mary and baby daughter,Jennifer, their friend Moira, and Dwight Towers. It shows howthey face impending disaster, and how they personally confront the fate that awaits them.
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