Study Guide

On the Beach Dissatisfaction

By Nevil Shute


This was no place for her. Into the world of romance, of make-belief and double brandies! Snap out of it, and get back to the world where she belonged! (2.213)

At first, Moira turns to partying to assuage her fears. It's hard to judge her for that, though—we're sure we'd do all sorts of crazy stuff if we knew that the world was about to end. As time goes on, however, she realizes that this lifestyle isn't all that fulfilling, and she finds herself yearning for more.

"Your trouble is that you won't face up to things," he told her. "All this has happened, and is happening, but you won't accept it." (2.226)

Here, John Osborne diagnoses Moira's illness quite easily: she's turned to booze and hard partying because it allows her to forget about her situation, if only for one boozy moment. But all that raging isn't going to make her problems go away, and she's now forced to face those problems head on.

The restaurants and cafes were all full, doing a roaring trade; the bars were shut, but the streets were full of drunks. The general effect was one of boisterous and uninhibited lightheartedness. (2.252)

It must be said that Moira isn't the only one who responds to the oncoming apocalypse by getting trippier than Juicy J. Before you get up on that high horse, however, just tell us one thing—what would you do if you were in these folks' shoes? And before you answer that, let us first note that those shoes are bathed in lethal doses of radiation. Okay—go ahead.

"Lots of my friends are out of a job now. [...] Half of Daddy's friends—people who used to go to the office—they just don't go now." (2.271)

Well, why would you work if the world was ending? It's interesting to contrast this attitude with that of Peter Holmes and Dwight Towers, who crave work because it allows them to focus on something tangible. If we'd wager to guess, we'd say that this difference stems from the fact that Peter and Dwight see their work as truly useful.

"Stuff and nonsense. I saw this coming twenty years ago. Still, it's no good blaming anybody now. The only thing to do is to make the best of it." (3.191)

Douglas Froude takes a unique approach, meeting his end with a stiff upper lip and a bottle of top-notch sherry. Douglas is a great deal older than the rest of the characters in the novel, however, which might explain this cooler mindset. After all, he's already had an entire life to live.

"None of us really believe it's ever going to happen—not to us," she said at last. "Everybody's crazy on that point, one way or another." (4.41)

Moira makes a good point. Although she's pretty messed up when we first meet her, she reveals herself to have a mature, intelligent understanding of the psychological experience the survivors are enduring. Good grief—we have the biggest crush on Moira.

"It's the same at the University," she said. "There are many more enrolments now than there were a few months ago." (5.126)

As time creeps closer to that fateful September, the Australian survivors start acting completely differently. Instead of indulging in a feast of vices, they decide to buckle down and get to work. Weird. Why is that?

Everyone was going a bit mad these days, of course. [...] All with an eccentricity that verged on madness, born of all the times they lived in. (5.226)

Peter and Mary have their garden; John Osborne has his Ferrari; and Moira and Dwight have their doomed almost-romance. Although their specific situations differ, each of these characters is doing the same thing—clinging to one tiny aspect of his or life in order to ignore the giant, irradiated elephant in the room.

When she did so she was concerned at his appearance; he [...] had gone a yellowish colour beneath his tan, and in unguarded moments he was depressed. (7.40)

You know things are getting bad when Dwight Towers gets depressed—that dude is more chipper than Dudley Do-Right. Unfortunately, Dwight has just gotten back from a months-long trek to the country of his birth, where he was finally forced to face the fact that it has been completely and utterly destroyed. So, yeah—dude is pretty bummed out.

As the weeks went by, the population became noticeably more sober; there were still riotous parties [...] but far few than there had been earlier. (7.202)

It's almost as if everyone has become dissatisfied with all of that dissatisfaction. More likely, however, everyone has finally admitted that the end is really coming, and that they'd better use their final moments wisely. Though you might consider this a sign of defeat, we'd argue that it's a sign of acceptance.