On The Beach

Every thought of man originates from an emotion. Most of the times our actions are carried out from the heart rather than the mind. We respond to various situations on the basis of how we feel rather than what we think. However, we should not let our emotions take absolute control so that we make careless decisions or do something for which someone else has to suffer. In the
novel, On the Beach, Nevil Shute creates an emotional impact on the reader by showing how man misuses his intelligence, how people react to the situation and the effect of the loss of a loved one.

Over centuries mankind has beared heavy losses due to the misuse of intelligence. Man has used his sophisticated, superior brain for the production of things like weapons, nuclear bombs et cetera either to take revenge or explore the power of his deadly creations. Little did he notice that someday his very own creations could bring about his own death. The most scary part, however, is that these chemical bombs are global killers, i.e. effect of the explosion of a nuclear bomb dropped in one part of the world can gradually spread all over the globe killing every living organism, sometimes even bacteria because of it’s intense radioactive levels. In the novel, On the Beach, when the character Moira Davidson, a young ambitious girl who wanted to study and visit places throughout the world is faced with the fact that neither she nor anybody else in the Southern Hemisphere is going to live for more than a few months because of a nuclear bomb launched in the Northern Hemisphere, she gets very furious and frustrated. She says, “There never was a bomb dropped in the Southern Hemisphere. Why must it come to us?”(7th last line, pg. 29) But, Moira wasn’t the only one who was complaining. Almost every soul on the rest of the planet shared her thought because of various reasons; a developing country like China who was at the peak of becoming one of the world’s biggest industrial power was destroyed, Russia, a country with abundant land was destroyed within days and last but not the least the people living in the countries of the Northern Hemisphere where the war began were the first ones to experience their inevitable death. They did not even have the opportunity to live longer, but even if they did, they would live a pointless life of fear awaiting their uncertain death. Also, a very large portion of the novel is concentrated on a very pointless mission. The crew from Australia goes on a cruise to see if there are any other people alive in different parts of the world. They knew no one would be alive but they still went looking and took extra protection that they were not harmed by radioactivity. Even though, their deed was rather virtuous they should have properly used their intelligence to understand the fact that they themselves were going to die and even if by any rare possibility they found a living soul, they couldn’t keep him/her alive longer than themselves. Even though man may have advanced a great deal in technology he could not determine where to stop, his creation of nuclear weapons brought about his own death and the death of other innocent people.

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The description of the way in which people react to their inevitable death is excellently shown in this novel. People in the Southern Hemisphere know that they are going to die because of the chemical war in the Northern Hemisphere. They were helpless and couldn’t escape their uncertain death. Some people just couldn’t face the fact that they were going to die and carried out their lives as if nothing had been altered. Especially the characters Peter, lieutenant commander of the Royal Australian Navy and his wife Mary Holmes weren’t much disturbed by the fact that they were soon going to perish into dust. They were thinking and making plans for the future such as, when will they plant their garden, how is their daughter going to be when she grows up, if or not they should buy a new car et cetera. They knew that they were going to die soon, but still pretended as if it would be a long time before they did. On the other hand, one of the other main characters, Commander Dwight Towers of the U.S. Navy was in a state of shock and denial. He knew his family back in America was dead, but he still talked about them as if they were alive and was really looking forward to see them when he got back. However, there was neither America anymore nor his family. Lastly, one of the most common way in which a large amount of population reacted to this situation is drinking. People used too drink almost twenty-four hours a day. Moira Davidson was one of those people because she thought that there was no purpose to her life anymore like the others and working was useless. She gets so addicted to drinking that even before going on a tour of the U.S.S. Scorpion, the American submarine that was used for the cruises, she begged Dwight for a drink. She
said, “There must be a hotel here somewhere. Buy me a drink before we go aboard”(para 6 5th line pg.42) Another common reaction by the people was committing suicide. There was a pill people could take to end their lives themselves. John Osborne took the pill behind the wheel of his Ferrari and ended his misery, while different people used their own techniques. The challenge of living a life with an uncertain inevitable death is a very hard task for most people while for some it hardly matters because they are so close to each other that their love simplifies the fear of their death.

The loss of a loved one can deeply hurt, sometimes putting the individual in shock, completely changing them or just leaving them into tears. The
novel, On the Beach, is focused on the people in Australia and how they react to their inevitable death. The first character that we come across who lost his family is Commander Dwight Towers, who was currently in Australia at the time of the nuclear global killing explosion which took place in the Northern Hemisphere was really taken back by the fact that his family had perished. Since, he could not face this bitter truth he pretended as if his family were alive and he was soon going back to his country to visit them. Deep inside he was really hurt and knew the facts. Another family that died was the Holmes family. Peter and Mary loved each other and their little daughter Jennifer and it would have been almost impossible for them to live without each other. All of them had become really weak because of the radioactivity. Thus like many other people they ended their lives by taking the pill and giving their daughter an injection because they could not bear to see each other die. Something similar happened with Moira Davidson. She fell in love with Commander Dwight and Dwight started liking her too, as they were approaching their very last days. Moira and Dwight started realizing that they were going to die soon and they didn’t want to lose each other, but they could not do anything about it. However after Dwight took the submarine to sink that would kill him too, Moira couldn’t bear his loss and so at ten past ten she took the pill that would end her life to be back with Dwight. She sat behind the wheel of her big car and said, “Dwight, if you’re on your way already, wait for me.”(5th last line pg. 234) Love is the emotion which keeps people bonded together and therefore it is very hard for one to see a loved one die even if they are going to live a day more.

Hence the author makes it very clear that even though humans are the most intelligent beings, they can make irrational decisions which can bring about their own extinction. Now, since there are seven countries around the world, which possess nuclear bombs, the extinction of mankind is seconds away from the pressing of a button. Nevil Shute shows us how emotions trigger a war leading to a nuclear explosion, how people are affected by it and how much it hurts to die an undeserving death. Thus man is a slave to his emotions.

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