Hiroshima (John Hersey) Essay, Research Paper
John Herseys Hiroshima gives us the experience of six people who survived the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb. These six were among the survivors. John Hersey tells you (the reader) their stories, and has returned to find them forty years later to tell you their fates. These six people vary in gender, age and profession. Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works; Dr. Masakazu Fuji, a physician; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young surgeon and The Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church are the six Hersey chose to interview. The atomic bomb had a big impact on Hiroshima. Herseys content, as an author was to deliver a message to the reader the inhumanity of the atomic bomb.
The book opens with what each person was doing moments before the blast and follows their next few hours, continuing through the next several days and then ending with their situation a year later. In the opening chapter, “A Noiseless Flash” he gives short scenarios of what each was doing moments before the blast and immediately after. The second chapter, “The Fire,” picks up with each victim as they begin to assess their surroundings. All face a different sort of horror as they realize their lives have been spared yet the world as they knew it is gone. “Details Are Being investigated” is the title of the third chapter. As the title suggests, inhabitants of Hiroshima are being bombarded with rumors about the bomb and eagerly await any official word. Information is scarce and the phrase “details are being investigated” is repeated throughout the city over makeshift communications. This chapter is the longest and details what is happening to the six as the day passes into night. Some readers might be confused by the significance of the title of the fourth chapter: “Panic Grass and Feverfew.” The effect the bomb had not only left the underground organs of plants intact but also had stimulated growth of the wild flowers and plants. Two of these plants that grew profusely around the scars of the city were panic grass and Feverfew. This chapter traces the effect of the nuclear radiation on the residents. Four of the six suffer from radiation sickness in varying degrees. This is the final chapter in the original book. Hersey concludes the stories with a report of where each victim is at this point in his or her life a year after the bomb had fallen. In his addition to the original text, the fifth chapter called the Aftermath, Hersey returns to interview the six survivors and see how their lives have been altered by the blast and what they are now doing.
Hersey appeals to the reader’s sensitivity by portraying six real people who suffer greatly. However, he does not make the reader feel uncomfortable by moralizing about the decision to use the atomic bomb. He further utilizes an intriguing technique in the opening chapter by ending it with each victim in a perilous situation. Hersey made every attempt as the author not to intrude on the story. His focus is entirely on the six people and their stories.
Hersey chose a simple, yet effective, structure to tell the six separate stories. He introduces each and then follows their individual actions, keeping the reader updated in each of the chapters as the days and months pass. Hersey’s style is journalistic reporting. He does not draw moral conclusions; he simply relates the information in a no-nonsense fashion. Written in a dry, calm manner that might strike some readers as emotionless but permits the survivors’ stories to speak for themselves, the style is deliberate. Hersey avoided making himself a part of the account so the readers’ experience is as direct as possible until the final chapter when he adds a bit of style with the addition of atomic events taking place in the world.