On the Beach | Study Guide

Nevil Shute

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On the Beach | Characters

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Character Description
Peter Holmes Peter Holmes is a lieutenant commander in the Royal Australian Navy, liaison officer on the US submarine Scorpion, and husband of Mary Holmes. Read More
Mary Holmes Mary Holmes is the young wife of Peter and mother of their baby daughter, Jennifer. With harmless self-delusions, she makes their home a safe haven from the harsh realities of death. Read More
Dwight Towers Dwight Towers is a commander in the US Navy and captain of the submarine Scorpion. A dedicated husband and father, he clings to the memory of his family who died in Connecticut during World War III. Read More
Moira Davidson Moira Davidson is a young woman living out her last days drinking to excess and courting an early death until she meets Dwight Towers. Read More
John Osborne John Osborne is a civilian scientific officer assigned to travel with the submarine Scorpion on her final missions. Read More
Jennifer Holmes Jennifer Holmes is the baby daughter of Peter and Mary Holmes, who must decide to kill her when the radiation sickness arrives. Read More
Sam Bailey Sam Bailey, driving a Gipsy-Lotus, wins the qualifying heat for the Australian Grand Prix in which John Osborne comes in second.
Lieutenant Benson Lieutenant Benson is one of the American naval officers serving aboard the Scorpion on its cruise up the West Coast of the United States. The mission is to investigate radio signals coming from Seattle, Washington.
Eddie Brooks Eddie Brooks is a member of John Osborne's pit crew during the qualifying heat for the Australian Grand Prix.
Bill Davidson Bill Davidson is Moira Davidson's father and a grazier, or rancher. He works on his ranch until the very last day and worries what will happen to his cattle when he's gone.
Mrs. Davidson Mrs. Davidson—whose first name is not provided—is Moira Davidson's mother. Born in Australia, she has visited England once, right after World War II, and believes it must be significantly changed since then.
Johnny Dismore Johnny Dismore is commanding officer of the USS Swordfish, the Scorpion's sister submarine. His report on a cruise from Rio de Janeiro up into the North Atlantic confirms high levels of atmospheric radioactivity over the whole area.
Leading Seaman Edgar In the final months before the radioactive dust reaches Melbourne, cars reappear on the roads, burning up the last of the precious stores of gasoline. Leading Seaman Edgar is assigned to be the driver for Dwight Towers.
Lieutenant Commander Farrell Lieutenant Commander Farrell is an American serving aboard the Scorpion. He is first to spot lights along the West Coast of the United States, near the mouth of the Columbia River.
Dr. Fletcher Dr. Fletcher is the physician called out to the Davidson's ranch to treat Dwight Towers for flu after his return from Scorpion's last mission.
Mrs. Hector Fraser Mrs. Hector Fraser is an old friend of Moira Davidson's family. She informs Moira of Dwight Tower's odd quest to purchase a pogo stick.
Sir Douglas Froude Sir Douglas Froude is John Osborne's great-uncle. He is a retired lieutenant general who raises sheep, dabbles with writing, and spends time drinking vintage port at the exclusive Pastoral Club.
Mr. Goldie Mr. Goldie is the chemist, or pharmacist, who provides Peter Holmes with fake cyanide pills and a dummy syringe. Peter uses them to show Mary what she must do when the radiation sickness arrives. At that later date, Mr. Goldie will be distributing the real thing.
Admiral Grimwade Admiral Grimwade is the highest-ranking official in the Royal Australian Navy. Also called the First Naval Member, he assigns Peter his final position as liaison officer on the USS Scorpion, under command of Dwight Towers.
Don Harrison Don Harrison is the drunken driver of a Jaguar during the qualifying heat for the Australian Grand Prix. He is killed in a crash.
Mrs. Harrison Mrs. Harrison is Don Harrison's widow. She tells John Osborne that her husband died the way he wanted to: "None of this being sick and all the rest of it."
Sir David Hartman Sir David Hartman is vice admiral of the Royal Australian Navy. Also titled First Naval Member, he is a senior naval officer.
Lieutenant Hirsch Lieutenant Hirsch is a young enlisted American sailor on the USS Scorpion. During the submarine's final cruise, Hirsch reports Yeoman Swain has deserted to spend his last days ashore in Edmonds, Washington, his hometown.
Holman Holman—whose rank and first name are not provided—is an enlisted American sailor on the USS Scorpion.
Isaacs Isaacs—whose rank and first name are not provided—is an enlisted American sailor on the USS Scorpion.
Professor Jorgensen Professor Jorgensen is an advocate for the theory that atmospheric radioactivity may decrease in intensity as rain and snow "wash the air" of radioactive elements. This would decrease the intensity of the radioactivity moving south toward Australia. His theory proves to be false.
Mortimer Mortimer is an enlisted American sailor on the USS Scorpion. His official title is Chief of the Boat.
Mr. Paul Mr. Paul is a farmer who supplies milk for his neighbors, including Peter and Mary Holmes. While Peter is away on duty, Mr. Paul promises to make sure Mary gets the milk and cream she needs twice a week, on schedule.
Prime Minister Ritchie Prime Minister Donald Ritchie gives Dwight Towers and Peter Holmes their instructions before the USS Scorpion's final cruises. His radio talks have been a steadying force for the people of Australia as they wait for the radioactive dust to reach them.
Lieutenant Sunderstrom Lieutenant Sunderstrom is the American radio and electrical officer on the USS Scorpion. He knows the radio installations on Santa Maria Island near Seattle, where random radio signals have been picked up. When Scorpion reaches the island, Sunderstrom goes ashore to track down the source of the signal.
Yeoman First Class Ralph Swain Yeoman First Class Ralph Swain is the American radar operator on the USS Scorpion. During the cruise north to investigate radio transmissions from Seattle, Washington, Yeoman Swain deserts ship to spend his last days in Edmonds, his hometown.
Alan Sykes Alan Sykes is director of the State Fisheries and Game Department. Though it violates routine, he allows the final trout season to open in August instead of waiting for September 1.
de Vries De Vries—whose rank and first name are not provided—is an enlisted American sailor on the USS Scorpion.
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