Study Guide

On the Beach Chapter 8

By Nevil Shute

Chapter 8

  • Mary and Peter are working in the garden when they learn that the radiation cloud has reached Sydney. It's the first day of August, which means that they don't have much time left…
  • Jennifer has been teething over the past few days, so she's super fussy. This is pretty normal, but Mary worries that it could be something worse. Oh, man, we can hardly bear this anymore.
  • Peter heads to the naval base, even though he has no meetings today. At least he'll be able to clear his head and pick up a few cans of gasoline.
  • Peter meets Dwight and John soon after arriving. They discuss John's upcoming race at the finals, as well as the radiation cloud. According to John, it's here now—they've "all got it" (8.34).
  • Dwight heads off to meet with Moira, while Peter and John head to the Pastoral Club. In a bit of gallows humor, the men joke about how Australia's rabbits will outlive its humans.
  • Meanwhile, Moira and Dwight arrive at the club for their date. He tells her that he recently told the captain of the only other remaining U.S. sub to "sink her on the high seas" (8.77).
  • Moira and Dwight set a date for a fishing trip. They'll be forced to miss John's race, but neither is too bummed—the whole spectacle was kind of upsetting.
  • Dwight makes it clear that he isn't down for any hanky-panky, but Moira knows this already. They'll have separate rooms at the hotel and have a lovely, chaste time.
  • Dwight and Moira both fantasize about Moira meeting Dwight's family, which is both heart-warming and heart-breaking. This novel does that a lot, huh?
  • Dwight doesn't have anything to do for the rest of the day, so he visits John at his garage. Peter is there, too, along with a whole crew of mechanics, working on the car.
  • Once they're done, Peter returns home. Mary requests that he pick up a gas-powered mower to make gardening easier in the future. She also wants a nice garden seat.
  • The whole family drives into Melbourne the following day. Mary is horrified by what she sees: the city is now "dirty" and "horrid" because city workers have pretty much quit (8.155).
  • Peter and Mary get the mower and return home, but Mary is shaken by the experience. More than anything, this has made her realize that there's no hope to escape their fate.
  • The following weekend, Dwight heads to the Davidson abode to help out around the farm. Mr. Davidson is horrified at the thought of his animals living on past him and tries to figure out how to keep them fed when he's gone.
  • On Tuesday, Dwight returns to Williamstown. His men have been acting up lately, showing up drunk and all out-of-sorts, but Dwight puts his foot down and whips them into shape.
  • Dwight's fishing trip is this weekend. He says his goodbyes to John Osborne, who ominously warns that this "may be the last week-end in full health for a lot of people" (8.203).
  • Afterwards, Dwight has his driver take him to the Davidson's house. He and Moira pack their things into her family car, and they head out, with Moira gleefully behind the wheel.
  • Dwight and Moira arrive at a hotel in the mountains that's packed with people. They sit down and chat with a couple of hardcore fishers who are heading out at the crack of midnight to start fishing.
  • Dwight and Moira spend the rest of the night smoking, drinking, and having an awesome time. Finally, he walks her to her door, and they say their goodnights.
  • Moira spends a moment lamenting fate: if only she had "five years, at least," she'd be able to win his heart and start a real relationship (8.272). Sadly, all she has is a few days.
  • Moira and Dwight go out fishing in the morning, and Dwight lands a whopper immediately. He spends the rest of the afternoon helping Moira catch some, too, which she does with aplomb.
  • After an emotional conversation about their relationship, Dwight and Moira return to the hotel to learn good news: John won the race.
  • Finally, Moira and Dwight decide to head home. They've had a great time, but it's time to get back to reality: there have now been "several cases of this radiation sickness in Melbourne" (8.309).
  • Oh, sweet Jenga—we've never not wanted to read the final chapter of a novel this much ever.