Shute, Nevil: On the Beach
(researched by Shauna Berman)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Nevil Shute. On The Beach. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1957 Copyright: William Morrow and Company, Inc. Parallel Editions: Published simultaneously in the Dominion of Canada by George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
First American edition published in trade cloth binding.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
162 leaves, [8] pp. 9-320
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Neither edited nor introduced, the book includes a publisher advertisement for other books by Nevil Shute. There is also an introduction of sorts written on the inside flaps of the dusk jacket by Miriam Woods. (See #15 Other)
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
There are no illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Physical Presentation of the Text: Readability is excellent, with large margins. The text is in Dante font. The pages are slightly yellowed, yet otherwise in perfect condition. 92R. Book size: 207mm. by 138mm. Size of text: 150mm. Additional Comments: The overall appearance of the book is very good. The dust jacket is slightly worn around the edges. The book underneath is rather well-preserved. There are a few discolored markes, no more than a millimeter in size ont he front cover of the book, underneath the dust jacket. They appear to be water marks.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The book is on wove paper, with an even granulated texture that has slightly yellowed around the edges over time. Wear is even throughout the book, which is still in excellent condition. The front and last leaves are both of a slightly thicker cardstock, yet otherwise matching the other pages.
11 Description of binding(s)
Trade cloth binding, in pale gray with a criss-cross grain and no stamping. This edition has a dust jacket which is black with a large image of the sun on the front in circles, first white, overlaid with yellow and then orange. The lettering on the dust jacket is white, with the non-capitalized words in cursive script writing. Transcription of the dront of the dust jacket: ON | THE | BEACH | a novel by | NEVIL SHUTE | author of BEYOND THE BLACK STUMP, etc. Transcription of the spine of the dust jacket: ON | THE | BEACH | NEVIL | SHUTE | Morrow Transcription of the back of the dust jacket: (caption, under a black and white photo of Nevil Shute): NEVIL SHUTE, whose distinguished novels have made him one of the best loved story-tellers in the English language. | William Morrow and Company, Inc., 425 Fourth Ave., N.Y. 16
12 Transcription of title page
Transcription of title page: On The Beach | NEVIL SHUTE | In this last of meeting places | We grope together | And avoid speed | Gathered on this beach of the tumid riverÖ | This is the way the world ends | This is the way the world ends | This is the way the world ends | Not with a bang but a whimper | T. S. Eliot Transcription of title page verso: ©1957 by William Morrow and Company, Inc. | The lines on the title page are from "The Hollow Men" in Collected Poems 1909-1935, by T. S. Eliot, | Copyright 1936 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, | Inc. | All rights reserved. | Published simultaneously in the Dominion of | Canada by George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto. | Printed in the United States of America | Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 57-9158
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
Shute's manuscripts are housed at the National Library of Australia with microfilm copies in the Arents Library at Syracuse University.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Transcription of inside flap of dust jacket: Prophetic? | Better read it while | you can be sure | it's only fictionÖ| Nearly twenty years ago one of the nations leading critics, Orville Prescott, used hose works to describe another fabulous novel by Nevil Shute. It was called Ordeal and it accurately foreshadowed the Blitz over England. | Nobody believed Shute's vision of the future then. It was too ominous. But it came true. | Now, in a novel set only six years in the future, Shute has written one of the most startling- certainly the most shocking- books of his career. | ON THE BEACH | By NEVIL SHUTE | Author of Beyond the Black Stump, etc. | For twenty-five years it has been our privilege to bring Nevil Shute's magnificent books to American readers. During those years he has become one of the most beloved story-tellers of our time. | Shute's people have a warmth and | (cont'd on back flap) | Jacket by Miriam Woods | William Morrow and Company Transcription of back flap of dust jacket: (cont'd from front flap) | humanity that reach out to readers of every persuasion. His narrative pace is such that his most quiet novel has an excitement that makes the hear beat a little faster. The places he writes about- America or England; Australia or the Far East- seem magically familiar when drawn with Shute's familiar magic. | NOW he has written one of this most memorable novels- a stirring, provocative story of nine climactic months in the lives of people who can foresee their own end. | In this book, people know they are going to die. Their own government has planned to make it easy for them when the time comes. This is no consolation in the fact that, theoretically, the generation of life could start again in twenty years. There will be no human beings here to create new life in twenty years. | Nevertheless, the people of this book will catch you, as Shute's warm and usual human beings always do. They are the friends and wives and lovers of 1963, and you will be horrified at their fate. | Perhaps, if enough people read On The Beach, it will help prevent what Shute has imagined from ever happening at all. | William Morrow and Company
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
Though the book was simultaneously published in the Dominion of Canada by George J. McLeod Limited, Toronto, it does not appear that the original publisher issued the book in more than one edition.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
After extensive research, information about the printings or impressions of the first edition was not located.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Amereon, Limited: Date Not Given (Trade Cloth) Butterworth-Heinemann: August 1966 (Trade Cloth) Addison-Wesley Longman, Limited; Trans-Atlantic Publications, Inc.: October 1972 (Paper Text) Turtleback Books; Demco Media; Limited: January 1974 (Prebound) Large Type- Charnwood [Imprint]; F.A. Thorpe Publishers, Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Limited: December 1984 (Trade Cloth) Reprint- Lightyear Press [Imprint]; Buccaneer Books, Inc.: October 1993 (Library Binding) Ballantine Publishing Group: September 1983 (Mass Market) September 1997 (Trade Paper) December 2001 (Paperback) Troll Communications LLC: January 2000- Momentum Reader Series (Paper Text)
6 Last date in print?
The book appears to still be in print. According to extensive research, as of 2002, it was last printed in December of 2001.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
In 1977, according to Hackett, 2,680,597 copies of paperback and hardback combined were sold. However, since there continued to be printings after this date, the total sales is much higher.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
By October 1957, two months after its release, according to Publisher's Weekly, sales averaged 2,500 in the last four weeks.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
June 24, 1957: NEVIL SHUTE's / most startling novelÖ / scheduled for September 11th / ADVANCED TO JULY 24th / because of the timeliness of the subject and the instant response from those who have read it / ON THE BEACH / Here are just a few of the enthusiastic comments we have received from advance readersÖ / "Every American should read On the Beach. This novel vitalizes and makes an immediate personal problem out of what too many people have been unable to accept as a possibility." Senator Stuart Symington / "Shute has really outdone himself in this book. I hope it is fiction. Are you sure it is?" Thomas K. Finletter, former Secretary of the Air Force / "Surpasses Shute's other stories in the provocative quality of his characters and in the painstaking climaxes." Dr. Daniel A. Poling, The Christian Herald / "As a piece of writing, it is terrific. As a world warning, it is more terrifying than anything yet put in print." S. L. A. Marshall, soldier and author / "Never since 1984 has there been such a book! I was riveted to every page, and laid it down with tears in my eyes." Victor Weybright, publisher and author / ORDER YOUR STOCK NOW TO HAVE BOOKS ON PUBLICATION / $3.95. Poster available. / WILLIAM MORROW AND COMPANY, 425 Fourth Ave., New York 16 / In Canada: George J. McLeod Limited, 73 Bathurst St., Toronto 2B Forecast: June 24: ON THE BEACH Nevil Shute. Morrow, $3.95 / This is Mr. Shute's grim account of what happens to an attractive group of average people in Australia in 1961 when, following a brief but everlasting atomic war in Europe and Asia, the world is ending "not with a bang but a whimper." The characters realize that before long they are all going to succumb to radiation poisoning, and one by one they do. As a tract, "On the Beach" is very effective; as a novel it is not. The reader knows what is in store for the characters just as well as they do. Consequently, the story lacks drama and suspense. It is a book that will unquestionably, create a stir, although the sales potential of this kind of story is difficult to determine. Mr. Shute, of course, has a very large following, but those who are not already among his fans may not want to face this kind of thing, especially in midsummer. Publication has been advanced from September. There will be heavy national advertising and a generous number of advance reading copies will be sent out. September 14, 1957: Once- and only once this yearÖ / 1-for-10 FREE OFFER / ON THE BEACH / by Nevil Shute / on all orders received from / now through November 8 / For big pre-holiday sales and profits, order today! / $3.95 / WILLIAM MORROW & COMPANY, INC. / 425 Fourth Avenue, New York 16, N.Y. September 16, 1957: ON THE BEACH. Nevil Shute. Nine climactic months in the lives of people who, after a brief but intense atomic war, can foresee their own end. "One of the century's greatest tales of quiet horror and absolute suspense." - Philip Wylie. $3.95
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
After extensive searches of Publisher's Weekly and internet website searches, other promotions were not found. However, Publisher's Weekly did note the book's stay on the best sellers list: October 14, 1957: Best Sellers of the week: ON THE BEACH / Nevil Shute. Morrow, $3.95. Sales of over 2,500 from September 29 to Oct. 6. October 25, 1957: Best Sellers of the week: ON THE BEACH / Nevil Shute. Morrow, $3.50. For the last four weeks, sales have averaged a little over 2,500 copies. January 6, 1958: Best Sellers of the Week: ON THE BEACH / Nevil Shute. Morrow, $3.50 January 13, 1958: Best Sellers of the Week: ON THE BEACH / Nevil Shute. Morrow, $3.50 January 27, 1958: Best Sellers of the Week: ON THE BEACH / Nevil Shute. Morrow, $3.95. Reprint rights have been sold to New American Library, and a $.50 edition will be brought out some time between July '58 and July '59.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Motion Picture: Culver City, CA: MGM/UA 1959 On the Beach (1959), dir. by Stanley Kramer, screenplay by John Paxton, starring Gregory Peck (Dwight Towers), Fred Astaire (Julian Osborn), Ava Gardner (Moira Davidson), Anthony Perkins (Peter Holmes) - A pessimistic anti-Bomb film, set in the year 1964. The director Stanley Kramer wanted to make a picture that "reflects the primary hopes and fears on the minds of all people today. Gregory Peck is the commander of a U.S. nuclear submarine that lands in Australia, the only country that has not yet been wiped out by atomic fallout. Peck has an desperate affair with Gardner - and he must decide whether to die with Gardner in Australia or go back to America so that his men can die on home soil. Gardner told reporters: for making a picture about the end of the world, "this is the place to do it." Fred Astaire played a disillusioned scientist who crystallizes the films theme: if we have nuclear weapons, they will be used, intentionally or by accident. 'Waltzing Mat plays throughout the film. The Pentagon refused to lend the use of an atomic submarine. Nevil Shute boycotted the entire venture. At the end of the film is seen an abandoned banner, reading 'There is still time... Brother'. The New York Daily News (December 18, 1959) condemned the film: "This is a would-be shocker which plays right up the alley of a) the Kremlin and b) the Western defeatists and/or traitors who yelp for the scrapping of the H-bomb.... See this picture if you must (it seems bound to be much talked about), but keep in mind that the thinking it represents points the way toward eventual Communist enslavement of the entire human race." Videorecording/Lumitas Productions, Inc. Culver City, CA: MGM/UA Home Viedo [1993]; Harvard University Library; also widescreen edition TV Movie directed by Russell Mulcahy; 2000-05-28; UCLA Flim & Television Archive
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
N/A
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Nevil Shute Norway was born into an upper-class family on January 17, 1899 in Ealing, west of London, England to Arthur Hamilton Norway and his wife Mary Louisa Gadsden. In 1912 Shute's family moved to Dublin, where his father became the head of the Postal Service and Shute spent his summers. During the year Shute attended Shrewburg School in England. At the time of the Easter Rebellion in 1916, Shute served in the medical corps when his father's post office was burned. His older brother, Fred, was killed in France during World War I. Though Shute wanted to join the Flying Corps, he was rejected due to a bad stammer, later enlisting in the infantry just before the war ended. In 1918 Shute entered Oxford, where he received third-class honors in engineering. Upon graduating in 1922 he became a junior stress and performance calculator at the de Havilland Aircraft Company where he learned to fly. At this time he also bought a typewriter, perhaps, as suggested, due to the influence of writers in his family (Dictionary of Literary Biography). His grandmother had written children's books, his father had written travel books and his mother had edited a volume of correspondence. However, concerned that his bosses "would probably take a poor view of an employee who wrote novels on the side," and fearing other engineers would consider him "to be not a serious person" ("Slide Rule," Shute), he published as Nevil Shute, not Nevil Norway. In June 1923 Shute sent his first novel, "Stephen Morris" to a publisher, only to be rejected three times. In fourteen weeks in early 1924 he then wrote "Pilotage" which was also rejected. These works were later published, after his death, in 1961 as "Stephen Morris." In 1924, two years after joining de Havilland, Shute left to join the Airship Guarantee Company as chief calculator for the R100, a giant rigid airship. Between 1924 and 1930, Shute worked on the airship, flew a small plane and wrote novels about flying. His first published novel, "Marazan" (1926), published when he was 27 years old, is about Philip Stenning, a man involved with British civil aviation after World War I, who gets caught up in avenging a friend's death. "So Disclaimed" (1928) reflected his love of England and aviation as well as his concern for pilots who were poorly paid after the war (Dictionary of Literary Biography). In 1930 the government subsidized R101 crashed during a trial killing 44 men, and deeply disturbing Shute. Leaving the Airship Guarantee Company in 1931, Shute founded Airspeed Limited to build planes. Later that year he also married Frances Mary Heaton, a doctor at York Hospital. Though he wrote little of his family, he did have two daughters, Shirley and Heather Felicity. Shute spent 1932 to 1938 working at Airspeed Limited, and didn't write any novels during this time. In 1938, Shute resigned from Airspeed Limited and published "Ruined City," selling the movie rights almost immediately (after "Lonely Road" was made into a movie in 1936). After the war, Shute went to Burma for the Ministry of Information, returning to England and writing full-time in 1945. "Chequer Board" (1947) came out of his time spent in Burma. In 1947, Shute traveled by car around the United States to gain a first hand perspective of America. Shute moved permanently to Australia in 1950, partly to avoid higher taxes, and began work on "The Far Country" (1952). After suffering a mild heart attack in 1951, Shute was forced to give up flying and began to lecture on professional writing, despite his stammer. In his best-known work, "On the Beach," Shute takes up the destruction of the world in a nuclear holocaust. With the title taken from T. S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" (1925), the novel describes a nuclear war in 1962 beginning with the bombing of Tel Aviv and ending thirty-seven days later, in total devastation. Southern Australia is the last part of the world to be affected by the spreading radioactivity, which will reach there within a year. In 1958 a crew arrived in Melbourne to begin filming the 1959 movie version of "On The Beach" (1957) starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. Shute, however, was unhappy with the movie, particularly because it involved Dwight Towers in a sexual affair, which strayed from the book and Shute felt was out of character (Smith, Julian). Shute finished only two novels in his last four years, "The Rainbow and the Rose" (1958), about a pilot reviewing the life of his mentor, and "Trustee from the Toolroom" (1960), which opens in West Ealing, where Shute lived as child, and is about an accomplished engineer (Dictionary of Literary Biography). His work on the latter was impaired somewhat by a stroke he suffered in December 1958. However, Shute began a new novel that was to metaphorically depict the Second Coming of Christ in the southern Australian wilderness, (Smith, Julian) which he was working on when he died on January 12, 1960, after writing 24 novels and an autobiography between 1926 and 1960.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Nevil Shute's "On The Beach" created a stir among critics when it was published in 1957. Seen as visionary by many, it caused readers to assess the direction of the world, and wonder how they would react to its end. Shute's novel was often referred to as "prophetic," especially after his earlier novel "Ordeal" (1939) proved to be what the Virginia Kirkus' Service termed "horrifyingly prophetic." While many critics remained unimpressed with the dialogue and even the characters themselves, most agreed in the end that Shute's style proves only to make the story more believable. This book came alive for the majority of those who read it, causing them to ask: "If and when this happens to me, shall I do as well?" (Winterich, John 1957). The Virginia Kirkus' Service's review stated: The people of the story are very real; their tragic awareness becomes the possession of the reader. One hopes- to the end- for a miracle?It is an obsessive, nightmarish book, the more so because it is written on almost a deadpan level of narration, deliberately shorn of histrionics. The feeling of a deadpan level on which the book is written is echoed by other critics as well. However, this is also perceived as the precise reason for making this novel so horrifically lifelike. Gerald Sykes wrote in the New York Times that "the humdrumness of the characters is no doubt intentional, since it makes their story more convincing." The realness of the characters comes out through the ordinariness of their lives and the boring way in which they are depicted. As David Martin expressed, this book influenced his "outlook on the problem of nuclear war and human survival." Until reading this book, many didn't think such a catastrophe was possible. Martin attributes Shute with having instinctively grasped a new element which brings to the surface not individual complexities but the human archetype. And because Nevil Shute was a humane man-which all his books prove-and because he was fond of people, he succeeded in writing a pessimistic novel on a dreadful theme which affirms love and dignity. It is this which has made it so difficult (and in fact so pointless that few have seriously attempted it) to criticize him on the score that 'On The Beach' inculcates defeatism. "On The Beach" resonated with many critics, like John Winterich of The Saturday Review, who felt it could be read as a blueprint for us all. And George Harrison of the New York Herald Tribune Book Review wrote that Nevil Shute "has done an unusually able and imaginative job in depicting how people might act if there were a radioactive holocaust such as he envisages." Though Shute had written 21 novels after the publication of "On the Beach" he was still not known as a great literary author. As David Dempsey of The New York Times put it: "He was not an important writer, although in terms of influence he wrote, with 'On the Beach,' at least one important book." Dempsey's view, that up until "On The Beach" Shute's books were left behind, once they were finished, was echoed by many. Not all critics were favorable however, as William Dunlea of the Commonwealth wrote "Mr. Shute is too seldom inclined to let the obvious or the twice-told alone. When the dialogue is not straight banality it makes too cheap sport of the habits of like that make like a habit." Seconding Dunlea's view, Edith Fowke, who begins by saying that the theme of "On The Beach" is both awe-inspiring and dramatic, goes on to say: Nevil Shute's book is a very bad novel. The people in it are dull and unimaginative, and the ending is anti-climatic rather than apocalyptic. In fact, his characters are so flat and unappealing that you may well feel their final death from the inevitable radioactive sickness is not great loss. While admitting that Shute may be correct to assume that people in the situation of his characters might go on living much as usual, she claims he fails to add a tragic perspective, leaving the novel insignificant and unmoving. Sources: 1. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 30 pp 369-374 PN771.C59 (Alderman Reference) 2. "On the Beach," Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXV, No. 13, July 1, 1957, p 449 3. Winterich, John T., "Doomed People," The Saturday Review, New York, Vol. XI, No. 30, July 27, 1957, p12 4. Sykes, Gerald, "Supine Surrender," The New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1957, pp4, 14 5. Martin, David, "The Mind That Conceived 'On The Beach'," Meanjin, Vol. XIX, No. 2, June 1960, pp193-200 6. Harrison, George, "A Novelist's Warning to Man," New York Herald Tribune Book Review, July 28, 1957, pp1, 9 7. Dempsey, David, "Amid Evil, Good Endures," The New York Times Book Review, April 3, 1960, p4 8. Dunlea, William, "Fable of the Terminal Year 1963," Commonwealth, Vol. LXCI, No. 21, August 23, 1957, p524 9. Fowke, Edith, review of "On The Beach," The Canadian Forum, Vol. XXXVII, No. 441, October 1957, p166
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Nevil Shute's "On The Beach" created a stir among critics when it was published in 1957. Seen as visionary by many, it caused readers to assess the direction of the world, and wonder how they would react to its end. Shute's novel was often referred to as "prophetic," especially after his earlier novel "Ordeal" (1939) proved to be what the Virginia Kirkus' Service termed "horrifyingly prophetic." While many critics remained unimpressed with the dialogue and even the characters themselves, most agreed in the end that Shute's style proves only to make the story more believable. This book came alive for the majority of those who read it, causing them to ask: "If and when this happens to me, shall I do as well?" (Winterich, John 1957). The Virginia Kirkus' Service's review stated: The people of the story are very real; their tragic awareness becomes the possession of the reader. One hopes- to the end- for a miracle?It is an obsessive, nightmarish book, the more so because it is written on almost a deadpan level of narration, deliberately shorn of histrionics. The feeling of a deadpan level on which the book is written is echoed by other critics as well. However, this is also perceived as the precise reason for making this novel so horrifically lifelike. Gerald Sykes wrote in the New York Times that "the humdrumness of the characters is no doubt intentional, since it makes their story more convincing." The realness of the characters comes out through the ordinariness of their lives and the boring way in which they are depicted. As David Martin expressed, this book influenced his "outlook on the problem of nuclear war and human survival." Until reading this book, many didn't think such a catastrophe was possible. Martin attributes Shute with having instinctively grasped a new element which brings to the surface not individual complexities but the human archetype. And because Nevil Shute was a humane man-which all his books prove-and because he was fond of people, he succeeded in writing a pessimistic novel on a dreadful theme which affirms love and dignity. It is this which has made it so difficult (and in fact so pointless that few have seriously attempted it) to criticize him on the score that 'On The Beach' inculcates defeatism. "On The Beach" resonated with many critics, like John Winterich of The Saturday Review, who felt it could be read as a blueprint for us all. And George Harrison of the New York Herald Tribune Book Review wrote that Nevil Shute "has done an unusually able and imaginative job in depicting how people might act if there were a radioactive holocaust such as he envisages." Though Shute had written 21 novels after the publication of "On the Beach" he was still not known as a great literary author. As David Dempsey of The New York Times put it: "He was not an important writer, although in terms of influence he wrote, with 'On the Beach,' at least one important book." Dempsey's view, that up until "On The Beach" Shute's books were left behind, once they were finished, was echoed by many. Not all critics were favorable however, as William Dunlea of the Commonwealth wrote "Mr. Shute is too seldom inclined to let the obvious or the twice-told alone. When the dialogue is not straight banality it makes too cheap sport of the habits of like that make like a habit." Seconding Dunlea's view, Edith Fowke, who begins by saying that the theme of "On The Beach" is both awe-inspiring and dramatic, goes on to say: Nevil Shute's book is a very bad novel. The people in it are dull and unimaginative, and the ending is anti-climatic rather than apocalyptic. In fact, his characters are so flat and unappealing that you may well feel their final death from the inevitable radioactive sickness is not great loss. While admitting that Shute may be correct to assume that people in the situation of his characters might go on living much as usual, she claims he fails to add a tragic perspective, leaving the novel insignificant and unmoving. Sources: 1. Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 30 pp 369-374 PN771.C59 (Alderman Reference) 2. "On the Beach," Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXV, No. 13, July 1, 1957, p 449 3. Winterich, John T., "Doomed People," The Saturday Review, New York, Vol. XI, No. 30, July 27, 1957, p12 4. Sykes, Gerald, "Supine Surrender," The New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1957, pp4, 14 5. Martin, David, "The Mind That Conceived 'On The Beach'," Meanjin, Vol. XIX, No. 2, June 1960, pp193-200 6. Harrison, George, "A Novelist's Warning to Man," New York Herald Tribune Book Review, July 28, 1957, pp1, 9 7. Dempsey, David, "Amid Evil, Good Endures," The New York Times Book Review, April 3, 1960, p4 8. Dunlea, William, "Fable of the Terminal Year 1963," Commonwealth, Vol. LXCI, No. 21, August 23, 1957, p524 9. Fowke, Edith, review of "On The Beach," The Canadian Forum, Vol. XXXVII, No. 441, October 1957, p166
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Nevil Shute's "On The Beach" was a bestseller when published in 1957, and though controversial, has never been out of print since. Shute became a master of "the middle-class story: the story of well-meaning and honest men and women reaching for success that can be measured in terms of money, victory over an opponent, happiness, love, personal fulfillment, or self-understanding" (Smith 149). Shute's style is clear and simple, though his characters have been referred to as "wooden" and he has often relied on formulaic situations, he never failed to "find the proper words and tone to take the readers into his confidence and hold them there" (Smith 149). Using functional prose, Shute wrote as he built airplanes: simply. Though Shute expected "On The Beach" to be a failure, believing people did not want to read about bad things happening in the immediate future, it became Shute's greatest commercial and financial success. "On The Beach" was made into a movie in 1959, allowing it to reach an even larger audience, and has become the first important study of ecological disaster (Smith 133). No single factor made "On The Beach" a best-seller, instead it gained this title due to a compilation of causes. "On The Beach," built upon the success of Shute's previous novels, created a controversial stir with the release of a film version and perhaps most importantly dealt with a timely subject matter when published in 1957 that has continued to prove timely into the twenty-first century. In 1957, Shute had already written over twenty novels creating an existing audience for his work. Though he considered himself "an engineer who wrote books" ("Slide Rule," Shute), twenty-three of his novels became best-sellers. Throughout his lifetime, Shute's writing progressed, shifting from "war novels" in the 1940's to "anti-war novels" in the 1950's. As his subject matter shifted, so did his style, described by John H. Lienhard as: low-key, but his plots are assembled like Swiss watches -- every piece fits perfectly, and you simply can't put one down after you're 50 pages into it. They also contain astounding technical realism -- far more than you'd think could hold his readers' attention, much less keep them spellbound. Shute's first novel was "Marazan" (1926) about Phillip Stenning, an R.A.F. ace in World War I, who works at aviation jobs in the 1930's. When a friend is murdered, he investigates, tracking down a smuggler and supporter of Il Duce and laying a trap. In "Marazan" (1926) Shute introduces several of his favorite themes and techniques, which become familiar to readers of his later books, primarily a great deal of aviation information. Shute continues to describe technical details throughout his novels, as evidenced in the attention he pays to cars and the sport of racing in "On The Beach." His first novel also offers an example of a particularly modern theme, which is also recurring in Shute's work, especially visible in the bold assertion "On The Beach" makes about mankind's last days on Earth. In "A Town Like Alice" (1950) (also published as "The Legacy") Jean Paget, captured during World War II, returns to Malaya after receiving a cash legacy to offer thanks to the village that helped her. She continues on to Australia, is reunited with Joe, a fellow POW whom she thought had died and proceeds to turn a miserable outback town into a thriving Town Like Alice (Alice Springs). In this novel Shute allows a woman to be: the eagle-eye entrepreneur to renovate a small one-horse town in the outback. In a time period when women were viewed as homemakers and mothers, Shute uses the strong will of a determined and competent female to develop a town that may have otherwise eventually dried up like the swollen creek of the wet season in an Australian dry spell (Evans). Shute's character experimentation in this 1950 novel led to the development of his assertive female character, Moira in 1957's "On The Beach" seven years later. Though many critics have argued that Shute's characters lack development, others argue it is precisely the ordinariness of his characters that makes them so realistic. Edith Fowke, claimed the characters in "On The Beach" "are dull and unimaginative, and the ending is anti-climatic rather than apocalyptic. In fact, his characters are so flat and unappealing that you may well feel their final death from the inevitable radioactive sickness is not a great loss." For Fowke the dullness of the characters failed to add a tragic perspective, leaving the novel insignificant and unmoving. Gerald Sykes, however, wrote in the New York Times that "the humdrumness of the characters is no doubt intentional, since it makes their story more convincing." He argues that the realness of the characters comes out through the predictability of their lives and the boring way in which they are depicted. In this sense it becomes easier for the reader to relate to the monotonous everyday activities they undergo, even during their final days on Earth. Shute goes on to experiment with American-Australian relationships in "Beyond the Black Stump" (1956) about a young geologist from Oregon, Stanton Laird, who meets Molly Regan, an Australian girl, during a hunt for oil on her father's million-acre sheep station. Shute uses the romance between the two to explore the cultural differences between Americans and Australians. The Lairds, from Hazel, Oregon consider themselves to be settlers, however the Regans, are the actual pioneers, farming more than a million acres of arid waste in a region of Australia known as the Lunatic. On the surface, a union seems easy for Molly and Stanton, yet they discover that their worlds have less in common than they first supposed. This novel "developed as a result of Shute's groundwork for 'On The Beach' for he was planning to center the big new novel around an American survivor and an Australian girl" (Smith 125). "On The Beach" comes in a progression for Shute as he "first considered the Psychological dangers of using tools of war" (Smith 127) in "Requiem for a Wren" (1955) and moved on to consider the "logical cultural extension of the religion of efficiency: absolutely dull young men do their jobs very well without worrying about whether particular jobs will be successful, worth doing, or 'moral'" (Smith 127) in "Beyond the Black Stump" (1956). With "On The Beach" Shute goes even further, considering the world destroyed by gadgets, which it continues to love even after these gadgets have proven to outlast mankind. Not only do these novels show a progression and a setting of the stage for "On The Beach," but Shute's previous experience with foreshadowing increased the attention readers paid to the warnings Shute gave. In "Ordeal" (1939) (also published as "What Happened to the Corbetts") Shute described the opening bombing raids of a war in Britain. The protagonists, the family of Peter Corbett, live in Southampton, one of the first cities to be heavily bombed. The story mirrors the bombing of England by Germany in World War II very closely, but was published prior to the actual event. "Shute studiously avoids mentioning who the enemy is, but as he does mention a satirical cartoon of Hitler and Mussolini, it is clear who he means" (McDonald). Shute's description, though called "decidedly un-dramatic" (McDonald) describes the isolation and forced independence of people suffering a major disaster and proved shockingly prophetic. The success of Shute's previous novels helped propel "On The Beach" to become a bestseller as well, especially after Shute had proven himself as a prophetic writer with a great insight into the future. However, the majority of Shute's novels were written about his passions and experiences and things that Shute himself pondered and were subsequently not nearly as widely read as "On The Beach." Therefore, while Shute did have a reputation as a best-selling author prior to publishing "On The Beach," the status he earned after its publication was much greater. Many critics have said that "On The Beach" has "more mood than plot" (Smith 128), illustrating the vision that became the epigraph for Shute's book, T. S. Eliot's "Hollow Men." The novel begins with ordinary people in a small town. The reader doesn't even know until the third page that there has been a war. It is disclosed as having lasted for thirty-seven days in 1962, leaving behind no history, only seismographic readings. Shute puts forth an argument for plausibility by suggesting that as weapons become more powerful, they serve only to increase the power of irrational men (Smith 130). The war began with a bomb on Tel Aviv. A British and American demonstration flight over Cairo then leads Egyptians to bomb Washington and London in Russian planes, resulting in U.S. and British retaliation by bombing Russia. Shute explains that the foundation of civilization is order, obedience and organization. Therefore, he cautions that civilized men should not have to make either/or decisions between disobedience and destruction (Smith 130). The message Shute sends with "On The Beach" is that "human society was a nice try; unfortunately, it worked too well, trundling down the path until it found a way to destroy itself" (Smith 131). For Shute's characters, this means pretty much, life as usual, which has fascinated some critics as wonderful and others as awful. Awaiting a common death, for Shute's characters brings out not individual complexities, but rather a human archetype (Smith). While many reviewers were disturbed by Dwight Towers' insistence upon remaining faithful to his wife, though she and his children remain in Connecticut, which the reader is made to understand no longer exists, Smith argues this fidelity "is logical in so far as the condition of mankind has undergone a massive change. Except for a relative handful, those who were living are now dead - and the land of the dead has become the real world" (Smith 132). In the 1959 film production of "On The Beach" produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, and starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins this disturbing detail is altered. In Shute's book, Dwight Towers refuses to give in to his passion for the Australian beauty Moira, who remains above trying to seduce him into betraying his dead wife. However, in the film, Towers, played by Gregory Peck, and Moira, played by Ava Gardner, enter into a consummated love affair. While this film made Nevil Shute a household word in the United States and abroad, bringing more dedicated readers to Nevil Shute than any of his other novels and playing a major part in the international protest against nuclear weapons, Shute hated the film. He was enraged by its production believing that this story, like many of his others, was about ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances who rise to the occasion and behave well. For Shute behaving well included remaining faithful to one's dead spouse. Shute felt the portrayal of Dwight Towers in this film version destroyed the central message of the book. Gregory Peck, who played Towers, agreed with Shute's steadfast belief that Towers should remain loyal to his wife, yet was overruled by Kramer, who decided the audience "wouldn't accept that a man like me would be able to resist a beautiful, willing woman who was in love with him. 'We have to give them some sex,' he said" (Peck). Peck argued that this corrupted his character as well as Ava's, believing "self-denial on the matter of principle was romantic" (Peck). Despite Shute's dislike of the film, it is a classic, and the power of its message remains as strong in the twenty-first century as it was in 1957. Everywhere the film opened, controversy went with it, propelling interest in the film and novel even farther. The New York Daily News ran an editorial calling it "a defeatist movie" and insisting that "the thinking it represents points the way toward eventual enslavement of the entire human race." While many were left feeling as though a nuclear war simply wouldn't kill everyone in the entire world as "On The Beach" suggested, others felt the events were all too possible. Eva Gardner, who played Moira in Kramer's film acknowledged that though it was a fictional scenario, "everyone in the cast and crew knew it could happen. And that added a dimension of reality to the unreal world of film making that none of us had experienced before" (Gardner). "On The Beach" proved to be a timely novel, depicting a possible end to the world that felt all too near in 1957. Shute's idea for this book began as he stated, "as a joke" (Smith 124) between himself and friends living in the northern hemisphere that if the northern hemisphere destroyed themselves with nuclear weapons, then Australians would inherit the world. Shute drew on his experience as an engineer in directing the power of nature to the convenience of man, and considered the abuse of this great source of power. This eternal quest for knowledge had led Shute to see an end of civilization, rather than, as his previous joke suggested, a new beginning for a remote part of the world. Not only could those reading the book in 1957 feel a foreshadowing, but since the horrific event Shute describes has yet to occur, readers today can still see the novel as a prophecy looming in their future. With the world recovering in 1957 from World War II in which nuclear bombs were first used, the full effects of nuclear warfare was in the forefront of many minds. With the arms race and beginning of the Cold War, Shute's proposed fate of the world seemed to creep ever-closer. While at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Shute's prediction has yet to occur, there remains a dangerous conflict in the Middle East. With the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, Shute's novel once again mirrors actuality. As the United States stands facing a war with Iraq in 2002 "On The Beach" continues to instill fear within its readers. With bombing and retaliation hanging in the air, Shute's nuclear end of the world remains a hauntingly realistic possibility. Sources: 1. Smith, Julian. "Nevil Shute (Nevil Shute Norway)." Boston: Twayne Publishers, c.1976 PR 6027.054 Z9 (ALD-STKS)* 2. Extract from the Dictionary of National Biography 1951-1960: http://www.nevilshute.org/Biography/dictionarynationalbio.html* 3. Lienhard, John H. "Engines of Our Ingenuity: Nevil Shute" http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi110.htm* 4. McDonald, John Q. "Thumbnail Book Review of 'Ordeal.'" March 4, 1998 http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/~jmcd/book/revs/ordl.html* 5. Shute, Nevil. "Slide Rule: The Autobiography of an Engineer."* 6. Evans, Darci. "Review of A Town Like Alice" http://www.nevilshute.org/Reviews/alice2.html* 7. Hills, Babette. "Review of Marazan" http://www.nevilshute.org/Reviews/marazan.html* 8. Lieberman, Gregg. "Review of Beyond the Black Stump" http://www.nevilshute.org/Reviews/blackstump.html* 9. Sykes, Gerald, "Supine Surrender," The New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1957, pp4, 14* 10. Fowke, Edith, review of "On The Beach," The Canadian Forum, Vol. XXXVII, No. 441, October 1957, p166* 11. Gardner, Ava and Peck, Gregory. "On The Beach - The Film and The Actors' Perspectives" http://www.nevilshute.org/Reviews/gardner.html*
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