On the Beach

This study guide will help you analyze the text “On the Beach” by Bret Easton Ellis. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “On the Beach”
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Published in: The Informers
Date of Publication: 1994
Genre: Short story

Bret Easton Ellis (b. 1964) is an American writer of screenplays, novels, and short stories. Most of his works are characterized by black humor and satire. His first novel, Less Than Zero, was a bestseller but he gained most notoriety with the novel American Psycho, which was adapted into a film. 


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The title of the short story, “On the Beach”, indicates the physical setting of the events. The narrative is set on a Malibu beach, the only place where the narrator’s dying girlfriend wants to be: “We have been on the beach every day for the last three weeks now. It's all she wants to do.” 

At a symbolical level, being on the beach becomes like being on the edge of death. It is a constant reminder of the thin line between life and death and of the girlfriend’s unavoidable death: “There's nothing to do but sit here in the sun, on the Beach.” 


The short story begins in media res (in the middle of events) with a dialogue line by the narrator’s girlfriend, which hooks the readers’ attention: “ ‘Imagine a blind person dreaming,’ she says.”


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On the Beach

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