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On the Beach

Nevil Shute

Chapter Two

Chapter One

Chapter Two, page 2

page 1 of 2
Summary

The day after the party, Peter makes an arrangement with the local farmer, Mr. Paul, so that Mary and Jennifer will be able to get milk and cream while he is away at sea. Dwight goes to church by himself to think about his family in America. Even though they have obviously been killed in the war along with everyone else in the United States, Dwight refuses to accept the fact that they are dead. He thinks about buying a fishing rod as a tenth- birthday present for his son, Junior, and thinks about seeing his daughter, Helen, again when he returns to America in September.

Upon returning to Peter's home, Dwight talks with Moira. She speaks about how bored she is with life, with nothing but drinking to keep her busy. Dwight remarks that he is lucky to have a job to occupy his time. He invites her to visit the submarine, and she asks for an exact date so she will have something to look forward to. Dwight teases her not to mix whiskey and brandy again, but she says it is her body so she can do whatever she wants to it. Moira goes home and tells her mother about meeting Dwight. Moira is annoyed by her mother's questions, but she resists the urge to argue with her mother when she considers how little time is left.

Meanwhile, Dwight goes to the Navy Department and meets with John Osborne, an Australian civilian scientist. John has never been on a submarine before. His job on this mission will be to make observations and take readings of the radiation levels both in and above the water. He is to alert the crew if the radiation levels rise within the sub.

From Tuesday to Friday of that week, the crew conducts a trial run of the submarine. On Saturday, Moira visits the ship. She goes into Dwight's sleeping cabin to change into a pair of overalls; inside the room, she sees photos of Dwight and his family. It was hard for Moira to look at them. Dwight's wife and children look like nice people, but she sees no use agonizing over it.

Dwight tells Moira that the submarine will go north, up the coast of Australia, to see if anyone there is still alive. Moira asks Dwight if he can visualize the cities in North America, a place she has never visited. He says he prefers to remember them as they were before the war. He admits that no one but God will know what the cities now look like.

Desperate to get away from the morbid reality, Moira suggests going drinking and dancing in Melbourne. Most of the stores in the city are closed, but the restaurants and cafés are packed. The bars are closed, but the streets are nonetheless full of drunks. Moira speaks again about how Dwight is lucky to have a job. The only work she does is helping on her father's farm. Before the war, she had finished university and had been planning to take secretarial courses. Moira does not see any reason to take the courses now, considering she would not have time to finish them and there are no jobs available anyway. Dwight suggests she work for the sake of working. When they part company, he thinks to himself how Moira reminds him a little of his wife, Sharon, and perhaps that is why he likes Moira so much.

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