Study Guide

On the Beach Chapter 9

By Nevil Shute

Chapter 9

  • It's Tuesday, and Peter is heading into Williamstown to meet Dwight. The end is pretty much here now: "It was no longer a matter of days now; it was coming down to hours" (9.7).
  • Peter finds Dwight meeting with the admiral. Sadly, Dwight confirms our suspicions: he's taking Scorpion out to sea to sink it.
  • Suddenly, the admiral puts on a funny face and excuses himself. Dwight and Peter lock eyes: he's definitely got radiation sickness. With nothing else to say, the two friends share a warm goodbye.
  • Meanwhile, John is at his mother's house. She's in bed, sick, and deeply concerned about the fate of her sweet little dog.
  • John heads off to Williamstown to finish up a few remaining pieces of business. His receptionist is gone.
  • When John returns home, he finds his mother dead—she took the pill. She also left an emotional note asking him to leave her where she is.
  • Tearfully, John gets his mother's dog from the garden and gives it the injection. He puts the poor thing to rest and leaves it beside his mother's bed before buying his own pill and booking a hotel room.
  • Meanwhile, Jennifer is crying up a storm. This isn't teething, however—it's definitely radiation. In fact, both Peter and Mary are feeling the effects, too, each trying to hide them from one another.
  • Later that day, Dwight finds Moira looking oddly happy. When he inquires about it, she tearfully explains that she's happy that they've "all got it together, on the same day" (9.131).
  • On Friday, Peter goes out looking for a garden seat. He also stops by the Pastoral Club to speak with John—he has something important he needs to talk about.
  • It turns out that Peter is feeling a lot better right now—he even ate a ton of food on the way over. John explains that this is only temporary, that he will inevitably succumb to the sickness sooner or later.
  • After Peter leaves, John heads out to check up on the Ferrari. He continually spasms as he tries to work on it.
  • Suddenly, John realizes that this is where he wants to say goodbye. So he sits in the front seat, "took the tablets in his mouth, and swallowed them with an effort" (9.170).
  • After picking up the garden chair (and a few roast beef sandwiches), Peter returns home. Mary is looking incredibly weak, but she's overjoyed to see the garden chair.
  • Finally, Peter reveals that he's feeling better and will likely last a few days longer than her. With that, Mary can't fight it any longer—it's time to say goodbye.
  • Peter turns off the electricity in the house before giving Jennifer her injection. Mary refuses his offer to hold the child one last time, wanting instead to remember her daughter as she was.
  • Finally, Peter mixes two drinks and grabs the tablets. Before they take them, Mary thanks Peter and tells him that she's "had a lovely time since [they] got married" (9.228). And now we're bawling.
  • That evening, Moira calls Dwight and asks if she can see him before he goes. It's happening the next morning, but she promises to make it.
  • Moira's parents are in pretty rough shape. Still, they want her to go, despite knowing that they won't be around when she gets back.
  • Moira meets Dwight outside the submarine the following morning. She asks him if she can join him, but he says no—as usual, Dwight plays by the rules.
  • Dwight and Moira kiss. Dwight tries to kiss her again, but Moira refuses, knowing that it would make her cry. Finally, they say goodbye, and Dwight boards Scorpion for the last time.
  • Moira watches the submarine leave with the other girlfriends and wives of the crew. Knowing that she can't go home, she decides to follow the submarine.
  • Moira hightails it to her car, leaping in and driving as fast as she can. Finally, she makes it to the sea, where she can see the submarine "barely five miles away" (9.286).
  • Moira waves to Dwight, knowing that he won't be able to see her. Finally, she returns to her car, sits in the front seat, and swallows the tablet with swig of brandy.

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