Apocalyptic novel; science fiction novel; social criticism; tragedy


Third-person omniscient narrator, with perspective shifting among the main characters

Point Of View

The narrator speaks in the third person, and switches from person to person, giving a complete picture of the events. The narrator primarily provides an objective viewpoint, telling what the characters look like and do and revealing few of their inner thoughts.


Sincere; sorrowful; warning


Immediate past


Primarily Dwight Towers and Moira Davidson, though Peter Holmes and John Osborne also have major roles

Major Conflict

The characters cope with the reality that they are among the few people in the world left alive after a catastrophic nuclear war, and that within several months they too will inevitably die from radiation sickness

Rising Action

The characters get to know each other; the Jorgensen theory provides some hope that the radiation might subside; the mysterious radio signal from the Seattle area also provides home that some have survived; the submarine searches for life along the coast of northern Australia but finds none


The investigation of the Seattle radio signal finds that it has been a false hope; the Jorgensen theory is disproved

Falling Action

The submarine returns to Australia after the trip to America; the characters spend their last days in various ways; all ultimately commit suicide with pills as radiation sickness sets in


The epigraph to the novel quotes T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men," which indicates that the world will end "[n]ot with a bang but a whimper".