Study Guide

On the Beach Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By Nevil Shute

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

"It's not that I'm afraid of dying, Dwight. We've all got to do that some time. It's all the things I'm going to have to miss…" (1.304)

For context, Moira is still in her early twenties, which is a smidge younger than the rest of the characters in the novel. She's pretty mature for a twenty-something, huh? Still, she's also the one who's had the least amount of life to live.

"I'm never going to get outside Australia. All my life I've wanted to see the Rue de Rivoli. [...] But that's what I've wanted, and I'm never going to see it." (1.304)

No matter how mature she can be, Moira is devastated to think about all of the things she's going to miss out on. She'll never go to Europe. She'll never visit New York City. She'll never be able to see Taylor Swift live in concert. Oh, wait—if this novel were true, Taylor Swift would never even have been born. Good thing or bad thing? Discuss.

"I'll never have a family like Mary," she muttered. "It's so unfair. Even if you took me to bed tonight I'd never have a family, because there wouldn't be time." (1.312)

Moira can't help but be jealous of Mary for having a family. We think she's missing the forest for the trees, though—we're sure that having a family makes the situation even more heartbreaking for Mary. She might be a few years older, but her future is as unwritten as Moira's.

"If we could get them out this winter and dig the ground over, I could plant it in the spring and we'd have vegetables all next summer." (4.27)

This sounds like a great idea until you realize that everyone on the planet will be dead by next summer. Talk about a buzzkill. Still, we think that Mary realizes this, even if she doesn't say it out loud. She's just dealing with an awful situation in the only way she knows how.

They went on happily planning their garden for the next ten years, and the morning passed very quickly. (4.36)

Although Peter sometimes gets annoyed by Mary's tendency to plan for a nonexistent future, we see here that he does get a lot out of it. Mary's planning takes his mind off reality for a moment and allows him to enjoy life a bit.

"I've been keen on motor racing all my life. It's what I've always wanted to do, but there's never been any money. Then I heard of this Ferrari." (4.405)

John Osborne responds to the oncoming crisis in the coolest possible way: by buying a sports car. Instead of getting all sad and mopey about everything that's happened, John decides to fulfill a lifelong dream. Now that's how you make lemonade out of lemons.

The car fulfilled a useful purpose in his life. He had been the life of a scientist, a man whose time was spent in theorising in an office or, at best, in a laboratory. (5.68)

What's interesting here is that John would never have become a professional racecar driver if World War III hadn't happened. For real. He would have lived his life as a mild-mannered scientist, always harboring a tiny regret about what could have been. Funny how life works out sometimes, huh?

"It'ld be worth doing her dirt if it meant having Dwight for good, and children, and a home, and a full life. I'd go through anything if I could see a chance of that." (6.217)

As she gets closer to Dwight, Moira realizes that she wants him to be her future. She wants to have a perfect, idyllic life with him, complete with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence. Can we call this couple "Doira"? How about "Mwight"? No? Okay, we'll stop. Anyway, sadly, it's impossible for those dreams to come true.

She lived in the dream world of unreality, or else she would not admit reality; he did not know. In any case, he loved her as she was. (8.150)

This is as close as we'll get to Peter admitting than he loves Mary for keeping their dreams alive (okay, we're reading deep between the lines on this one). Mary's fantasies—no matter how silly—give him real relief, which is pretty much worth its weight in gold at this point.

"She's just woken up to the fact that little Ming's going to outlive her by several months, and now she's worried stiff what's going to happen to him…" (8.207)

We see this quite a few times in the novel: individuals become anxious about what the fate of their pets and animals will be after the radiation hits. This is pretty amazing to us. Even in the face of certain death, these regular people are more concerned with protecting the future than with their own well-being.