Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series On the Beach Analysis
On the Beach is a prime example of a science-fiction story based on the premise of “if this goes on.” In such a story, the author warns the reader that if a particular trend or practice is allowed to continue, the results will be disastrous. Accordingly, Nevil Shute is warning the reader that if nuclear weapons continue to be developed and if small countries obtain them, the extinction of the human species is inevitable. For example, Shute assumes for the story that the hydrogen bomb will be superseded by the cobalt bomb, which generates more radiation than previous nuclear devices. His other premises are that countries such as Albania and Egypt will be able to buy Hiroshima-like bombs from arms dealers and that some of them will have leaders irrational enough to use them.
Shute shows the danger of relying too heavily on systems. During the war, Washington, D.C., and London were bombed by Russian-made Egyptian planes disguised as Russian planes. The people left in command reacted as they had been trained to do and ordered a retaliation on Russia. By the time that the mistake was realized, it was too late: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces had bombed Moscow, Leningrad, and other targets in the Soviet Union.
What makes the novel so effective is that Shute does not preach. He lets the reader get to know and like the main characters, and then he kills them off. Shute is also restrained. He does not sensationalize them or resort to gory descriptions of corpses. No one in the book ever...
(The entire section is 626 words.)