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Free Study Guide/Summary for On The Beach by Nevil Shute - Free Book Notes
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ON THE BEACH BY NEVIL SHUTE

THEMES - THEMES ANALYSIS

The most pervasive theme is that life should be lived as well as one knows how, regardless of impending doom. Several of the characters note the fact that everyone will die. This is nothing new; they simply know when they will die, and it will be about the same time everyone else does. Although the characters discuss the end and its implications, making plans for how they will shut down their lives when the time comes, they spend much more time making plans for the future beyond the time when there will be a future, and enjoying their lives as they always have. Even as the book ends, Dwight is looking forward to going home to his wife and children in Mystic, Connecticut, and Moira is saying that she’s coming, too.

Dwight and Moira hint at the notion that life continues after what we recognize as death. This idea is only implied, and perhaps could not even be considered a theme, but it is certainly recurrent enough to be important.

Another theme conveyed by Dwight Towers, as the best example of the thinking, is that life should be purposeful and filled with worthwhile endeavors, even if those endeavors will be cut short by premature death. Knowing the time and the inevitability of death should not affect the caliber of one’s character, nor the quality of his life.


POINT OF VIEW

The point of view in On the Beach is one of benevolent neutrality. In the third person, the author gives a detached, spare, sympathetic account of circumstances and people, letting them flesh in the details by what they say and do. In describing the war, he calls it “bewildering”. The various crew members of the Scorpion try to piece together what happened from what they’d learned, with very little commentary on the parties to the war that will kill them all. There is dismay that England and the United States, with whom Australia was allied, bombed Russia by mistake because the Egyptians responsible for taking out Washington were flying Russian made aircraft.

One of the group suggests that Dwight Towers wouldn’t have acted so rashly. But he says that after the statesmen were all killed, with the country under attack and unreliable intelligence, or none, he’s not sure he would have done any better. Moira expresses some bitterness and rage at first, but resignation and even sweetness set in under Dwight’s influence. Like the mood of the book, the point of view is mostly down to earth.

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