On the Beach

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Characters

Peter Holmes

Characters Peter Holmes

Peter is a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Australian Navy who is assigned to serve as a liaison officer aboard the American nuclear submarine commanded by Dwight Towers. Peter is a hard-working military man who loves the sea and his job. Whenever he is not working, he is helping his wife Mary take care of their baby daughter, Jennifer, and their house. Peter is strong enough to face the fact that he might have to kill his daughter when radiation sickness sets in, but he still clings to hope and plans his garden for the next ten years. Peter admits he does not have the imagination to believe the world is really going to end. Shute is concerned that we, as readers, also lack the ability to imagine this vivid, unfathomable outcome; if we do not believe a nuclear war will happen, we will not act to stop the arms buildup. At the end of the novel, Peter advocates that more education and information in newspapers might have prevented the war. Peter is an extraordinarily ordinary person, intentional on Shute's part so that we might relate to him easily. The more we can relate to the characters, the more likely we will take seriously the threat of nuclear war and do what we can to prevent it.