Study Guide

On the Beach Chapter 4

By Nevil Shute

Chapter 4

  • Dwight gets up for church the next morning, and, to his surprise, Moira decides to tag along. She wants to spend as much time with him as possible, as he's heading back to Williamstown tonight.
  • While Dwight and Moira are out, Peter and Mary discuss their garden. Mary wants Peter to pull up two trees from the land so they can expand it—even though they won't be around to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
  • Moira and Dwight return a bit later. Moira is disturbed by this garden conversation, as everyone knows that they "won't be here in six months' time" (4.39). This is such a bummer…
  • Peter and Dwight discuss Scorpion's mission: they'll likely be checking out that mysterious radio broadcast from Seattle. Both men doubt that there's anyone there, but it's an intriguing question.
  • Moira and Dwight go for a swim, and Dwight talks about his family. When they emerge, Moira realizes with horror that Dwight's socks have holes in them. Gasp.
  • Moira demands that Dwight bring her his clothes so she can "mend them" for him (4.148). Even better, he should spend a few nights at her parents' home and bring his ratty old clothes with him.
  • Moira returns home late that evening. Her parents are actually pretty excited that Dwight is coming over, especially because it's been so long since Moira's seemed happy.
  • Dwight arrives on Tuesday, suitcase of old clothes in hand. He loves the countryside immediately, even claiming that it's the most beautiful place he's ever seen.
  • When they arrive at the house, Dwight sits down and chats with Moira's dad. They discuss everything that's going on, and, as usual, it's more depressing than an Elliott Smith album.
  • Dwight has a great time over the next two days. He spends his days working with Mr. Davidson in the fields and his nights spending some quality time with Moira.
  • On his last morning, Moira finds Dwight staring with glee into their garage. He grabs her old childhood pogo stick and excitedly wonders if he can buy one around here (4.288). Uh, weird.
  • After Moira gives Dwight his newly mended clothes, they decide to see a museum exhibit on religious art before Dwight ships off.
  • Later that morning, Dwight boards Sydney for his briefing. As expected, he'll be traveling up to Seattle, taking a few brief stops along the way. This is going to be a serious trip, requiring twenty-seven days of continuous submersion, which could drive the whole crew nutso.
  • Peter (who was there, too) returns home from the meeting. Mary has a task for him, as usual—she wants him to pick up a playpen, as Jennifer is starting to walk.
  • Peter tells Mary about the mission. They'll probably be leaving in March, which means that he'll be back by mid-June.
  • The next day, Peter and Dwight return to Williamstown to continue planning. Dwight thinks that they'll need to adjust their trip to account for minefields, but everything else looks good.
  • The admiral then reveals that there's another aspect to their mission. A scientist named Professor Jorgensen has a theory that the radiation in the atmosphere is dissipating "more quickly than [...] anticipated," which would be amazing news (4.376). In other words, they'd survive.
  • If this theory is true, then the amount of radiation in the atmosphere should decrease as they head north. Ultimately, this is the primary purpose of their trip.
  • Although John Osborne doubts that the "Jorgenson effect" exists, the whole crew is holding out hope (4.391). Can't blame them for that.
  • After the meeting, John invites Peter to check out something in the middle of town. He leads Peter to a garage, which he opens to reveals a gorgeous, swanky Ferrari. What a baller.
  • John had bought the Ferrari on the cheap after the war broke out. After all, he had always wanted to have a killer sports car, and now he's finally made his dream come true.
  • Even better, the Ferrari runs on "a special ether-alcohol mixture" instead of gasoline, which means that he'll actually be able to drive the darn thing (4.416).
  • Peter leaves and buys a playpen for Jennifer. He also stops by the chemist's office, where he pulls the doctor aside for a private chat.
  • See, Peter is worried that the radiation cloud could hit Melbourne before he gets back. Because of this, he needs to prepare Mary for what will happen if this occurs.
  • Peter and the chemist talk vaguely for a while, but it eventually becomes clear that they're talking about assisted suicide. There are pills for adults and shots for babies and small animals.
  • The chemist explains what to do and gives Peter some placebos so he can teach Mary how to use them. Man—this is getting so heavy.