Atombomb Essay Research Paper The Atomic Bomb

Atombomb Essay, Research Paper The Atomic Bomb and its Effects on Post-World War II American LiteratureRob GioielliMrs. McFarlanSenior English6 Dec. 1994Gioielli 1Rob GioielliMrs. McFarlanSenior English 6 Dec. 1994Then a tremendous flash of light cut across the sky . Mr. Tanimoto has a distinctrecollection that it traveled from east to west, from the city toward the hills.

Atombomb Essay, Research Paper

The Atomic Bomb and its Effects on Post-World War II American LiteratureRob GioielliMrs. McFarlanSenior English6 Dec. 1994Gioielli 1Rob GioielliMrs. McFarlanSenior English 6 Dec. 1994Then a tremendous flash of light cut across the sky . Mr. Tanimoto has a distinctrecollection that it traveled from east to west, from the city toward the hills. It seemedlike a sheet of sun. John Hersey, from Hiroshima, pp.8 On August 6, 1945, the worldchanged forever. On that day the United States of America detonated an atomic bomb over thecity of Hiroshima. Never before had mankind seen anything like. Here was something thatwas slightly bigger than an ordinary bomb, yet could cause infinitely more destruction. Itcould rip through walls and tear down houses like the devils wrecking ball. In Hiroshima itkilled 100,000 people, most non-military civilians. Three days later in Nagasaki it killedroughly 40,000 . The immediate effects of these bombings were simple. The Japanesegovernment surrendered, unconditionally, to the United States. The rest of the worldrejoiced as the most destructive war in the history of mankind came to an end . All whilethe survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tried to piece together what was left of theirlives, families and homes. Over the course of the next forty years, these two bombings,and the nuclear arms race that followed them, would come to have a direct or indirecteffect on almost every man, woman and child on this Earth, including people in the UnitedStates. The atomic bomb would penetrate every fabric of American existence. From ourpolitics to our educational system. Our industry and our art. Historians have gone sofar as to call this period in our history the +atomic age+ for the way it has shaped andguided world politics, relations and culture. The entire history behind the bomb itself is rooted in Twentieth Century physics. At the time of the bombing the science of physics had been undergoing a revolution for the past thirty-odd years. Scientists now had a clearpicture of what the atomic world was like. They new the structure and particle makeup ofatoms, as well as how they behaved. During the 1930+s it became apparent that there was aimmense amount of energy that would be released atoms of Gioielli 2certain elements weresplit, or taken apart. Scientists began to realize that if harnessed, this energy could besomething of a magnitude not before seen to human eyes. They also saw that this energycould possibly be harnessed into a weapon of amazing power. And with the advent of WorldWar Two, this became an ever increasing concern. In the early fall of 1939, the same timethat the Germans invaded Poland, President Roosevelt received a letter from Albert Einstein,informing him about the certain possibilities of creating a controlled nuclear chainreaction, and that harnessing such a reaction could produce a bomb of formidable strength.He wrote: This new phenomena would lead also lead to the construction of bombs, and it isconceivable, though much less certain-that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thusbe constructed (Clark 556-557).The letter goes on to encourage the president to increasegovernment and military involvement in such experiments, and to encourage the experimentalwork of the scientists with the allocation of funds, facilities and equipment that might benecessary. This letter ultimately led to the Manhattan Project, the effort that involvedbillions of dollars and tens of thousands of people to produce the atomic bomb. During the time after the war, until just recently the American psyche has been branded with the threatof a nuclear holocaust. Here was something so powerful, yet so diminutive. A bomb thatcould obliterate our nations capital, and that was as big as somebodies backyard grill. Forthe first time in the history of human existence here was something capable of wiping us offthe face of the Earth. And most people had no control over that destiny. It seemed likepeoples lives, the life of everything on this planet, was resting in the hands of a couplemen in Northern Virginia and some guys over in Russia. The atomic bomb and the amazingpower it held over us had a tremendous influence on American Culture, including a profoundeffect on American Literature. After the war, the first real piece of literature about thebombings came in 1946. The work Hiroshima, by Jon Hersey, from which the opening quote istaken, first appeared as a long article in the New Yorker, then shortly after in book form. The book is a non-fiction account of the bombing of Hiroshima and the immediate aftermath.It is told from the point-of-view of six hibakusha, or +survivors+ of the atomic blast. Infour chapters Hersey traces how the these people survived the blast, and what they did infollowing weeks and months to pull their lives together Gioielli 3and save their families.The book takes on a tone of sympathy and of miraculous survival +that these people werelucky enough to survive the blast. He focuses not on the suffering of the victims but ontheir courage (Stone, 7). The following passage from the first chapter shows this:A hundredthousand people were killed by the bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They stillwonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of the counts many small items ofchance or volition+a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcarinstead of the next+that spared him. And each that in the act of survival he lived a dozenlives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knewanything (4). Hersey was attempting to chronicle what had happened at Hiroshima, and todo so fairly. And in emphasizing the survival instead of the suffering he does not make hisbook anti-American or something that condemns the dropping of the bomb. He simply givesthese peoples accounts of how they survived in a tone that is more journalistic thansensationalistic. The book empathizes with their plight while it also gives an Americanexplanation for the bombing (Stone, 7). That it was an act of war to end the war as quicklyand as easily as possible, and to save more lives in the long run. Hersey did all this toprovide what he considered an evenhanded portrayal of the event, but he also did not want tocause much controversy. Although it could be criticized for not giving a more detailedaccount of the suffering that occurred, and that it reads more like a history book than apiece of literature, Hersey+s book was the first of its kind when it was published. Upuntil then all accounts of the Hiroshima bombing writings about it took the slant thatJapanese had +deserved what we had given them+, and that we were good people for doing so.These accounts were extremely prejudicial and racist. (Stone, 4) Hersey was the first totake the point of view of those who had actually experienced the event. And his work wasthe transition between works that glorified the dropping of the atomic bomb, to those thatfocused on its amazing destructive powers, and what they could do to our world.During theperiod immediately after the war, not much information was available to general publicconcerning what kind of destruction the atomic bombs had actually caused in Japan. Butstarting with Hersey+s book and continuing with other non-fiction works, such as DavidBradley’s No Place To Hide, which concerned the Bikini Island nuclear tests, Americansreally began to get a picture of the awesome power and destructiveness of nuclear weapons.They saw that these really Gioielli 4were doomsday devices. Weapons that could changeeverything in an instant, and turn things into nothing in a moment. It was this realizationthat had a startling effect on American culture and literature. Some Americans began to say+At any time we could all be shadows in the blast wave, so what+s the point?+. Thisviewpoint manifested itself in literature in something called the +apocalyptic temper+; anattitude or a tone dealing with a forthcoming end to the world. Also, many people,because of this realization of our impending death, were beginning to say that maybe theirwas something inherently wrong with all of this. That nuclear weapons are dangerous toeveryone, no matter what your political views or where you live, and that we should do awaywith all of them. They have no value to society and should be destroyed.This apocalyptictemper and social activism was effected greatly in the early Sixties by the Cuban MissileCrisis. When Americans saw, on television, that they could be under nuclear attack in undertwenty minutes, a new anxiety about the cold war surfaced that had not been present sincethe days of McCarthy. And this new anxiety was evidenced in works that took on a much moresatirical tone. And one of the works that shows this satiric apocalyptic temper andcynicism is Kurt Vonnegut’s Cats Cradle. Vonnegut, considered by many to be one of Americasforemost living authors, was himself a veteran of World War Two. He, as a prisoner of war,was one of the few survivors of the fire-bombing of Dresden. In Dresden he saw what manybelieve was a more horrible tragedy than Hiroshima. The allied bombs destroyed the entirecity and killed as many people, if not more, than were killed in Hiroshima. He wouldeventually write about this experience in the semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse-Five.This novel, like Cats Cradle, takes a very strong anti-war stance. But along with being anAnti-war book, Cats Cradle is an excellent satire of the Atomic Age. It is essentially thestory of one man, an author by the name of John (or Jonah) and the research he is doing fora book on the day the bomb exploded in Hiroshima. This involves him with members of the Dr. Felix Hoenikker family+the genius who helped build the bomb+and their adventures. In thebook Vonnegut paints an imaginary world where things might not seem to make any Gioielli5sense. But there is in fact an amazing amount of symbolism, as well as satire. Dr. Hoenikker is an extremely eccentric scientist who spends most of his time in the lab at hiscompany. He is interested in very few things, his children not among them. His childrenare almost afraid of him. One of the few times he does try to play with his children iswhen he tries to teach the game of cats cradle to his youngest son, Newt. When he is tryingto show newt the game Newt gets very confused. In the book, this is what Newt remembered ofthe incident:+And then he sang, +Rockabye catsy, in the tree top+;he sang, + when the windblows, the cray-dull will fall. Down will come cray-dull, catsy and all.++I burst intotears. I jumped up and ran out of the house as fast as I could.+(18)What Newt doesn+tremember is what he said to his Father. Later in the book we find this out from Newtssister, Angela that newt jumped of his father+s lap screaming + No cat! No cradle! No cat!No cradle!+(53) With this scene, Vonnegut is trying to show a couple of things. Dr. Hoenikker symbolizes all the scientists who created the atomic bomb. And the cats cradle isthe world and all of humankind combined. Dr. Hoenikker is simply playing, like he has allhis life, that game just happens to involve the fate of the rest of the world. And littleNewt, having a childs un-blinded perception, doesn+t understand the game. He doesn+t see acat or a cradle. Like all the games Dr. Hoenikker plays, including the ones with nuclearweapons, this one is mislabeled.This is just one of the many episodes in the book thatcharacterizes Dr. Hoenikker as a player of games. He recognizes this in himself when hegives his Nobel Prize speech:I stand before you now because I never stopped dawdling like aneight year on a spring morning on his way to school. Anything can make me stop and wonder,and sometimes learn (17). And the Doctors farewell to the world is a game he has played,with himself. One day a Marine General asked him if he could make something that wouldeliminate mud, so that marines wouldn+t have to deal with mud anymore. So Dr. Hoenikkerthinks up ice-nine, an imaginary substance that when it comes in contact with any other kindof water, it crystallizes it. And this crystallization spreads to all the water moleculesthis piece of water is in contact with. So to crystallize the mud in an entire armeddivision of marines, it would only take a minuscule amount of ice-nine. Dr. Gioielli6Hoenikker’s colleagues see this as just another example of his imagination at work. But heactually does create a small chink of ice-nine, and when he dies, each of his children get asmall piece of it. They carry it around with themselves in thermos containers the rest oftheir lives. At the end of book one small piece of ice-nine gets out , by mere accident,and ends up crystallizing the whole world. The game Dr. Hoenikker was playing with himselfdestroyed the whole world. The accident that caused the ice-nine to get out could be muchlike the accident that could cause World War III. One small thing that sets off an amazing

series of events, like piece of ice-nine just falling out of the thermos. And Dr. Hoenikker, like the scientists of the world, was playing game and caused it all. Here is adescription of the world after the ice-nine has wreaked its havoc:There were no smells.There was no movement. Every step I took made a gravelly squeak in blue-white frost. Andevery squeak was echoed loudly. The season of locking was over. The Earth was locked uptight (179).This description eerily resembles what many have said the Earth will look likeduring a nuclear winter (Stone, 62). In addition to Dr. Hoenikker and his doomsday games,Vonnegut provides an interesting analysis of atomic age society with the Bokonon religion.This religion, completely made up by Vonnegut and used in this novel, is the religion ofevery single inhabitant of San Lorenzo, the books imaginary banana republic. This is theisland where Jonah eventually ends up, and where the ice-nine holocaust originates. (Italso, being a Caribbean nation, strangely resembles Cuba.) Bokonon is a strange religion.It was created by one of the leaders of San Lorenzo, a long time ago. Essentially, Bokononis the only hope for all inhabitants of San Lorenzo. Their existence on the island is sohorrible that they have to find harmony with something. Bokononism gives them that. It isbased on untruths, to give San Lorenzans a sense of security, since the truth provides none. This concept can be summed up in this Bokononist quotation: +Live by the foma* that makesyou brave and kind and healthy and happy. *Harmless untruths (4)+ The inhabitants of SanLorenzo do not care what is going on in their real lives because they have the foma ofBokonon to keep them secure and happy. And Vonnegut is trying to say that is what ishappening to the rest of us. Americans, and the rest of the world for that matter, havethis false sense of security that we are safe and secure. That in our homes in Indiana withour dogs and Gioielli 7our lawnmowers, we think we are invincible. Everything will be okaybecause we are protected by are government. This is the foma of real life, because we aretrying to deny what is really going on. We+re in imminent danger of being annihilated atany second, but to deny this very real danger we are creating a false world so that we maylive in peace, however false that sense of peace may be.Throughout the entire novelVonnegut gives little snippets of +calypsos+ : Bokonon proverbs written by Bokonon. Verselike:I wanted all things To seem to make some sense,So we could all be happy, yes,Instead oftense.And I made up liesSo that they all fit niceAnd made this sad worldA par-a-dise(90).This calypso expresses the purpose of Bokonon and why it, with its harmless untruths,exists. The following one is about the outlawing of Bokonon. To make the religion moreappealing to the people, the leaders had it banned, with its practice punishable by death.They hoped that a renegade religion with a rebel leader would appeal to the people more.So Isaid good-bye to government,and I gave my reason:That a really good religionIs a form oftreason (118)These calypsos, and the rest of the book, express the points Vonnegut in amore abstract , symbolic manner. They only add to the impact of the books messageexpressing it in a very short, satirical way. The black humor used when talking about theend of the world+the nuclear end+was pioneered by Vonnegut. But what many consider to bethe the climax of this pop culture phenomena is Stanley Kubrick’s movie, Dr. Strangelove(Stone 69). Subtitled Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb , thismovie was Kubrick’s viewpoint on how mad the entire Cold War and arms race had become.Based a little known book by English science fiction writer Peter George, Red Alert, themovie is about how one maverick Air Force general, who is obviously suffering a severemental illness, concocts a plan to save the world from the Gioielli 8Communists. He managesto order the strategic bombers under his command to proceed to their targets in the SovietUnion. They all believe it is World War Three, and the General, Jack Ripper, is the onlyone that can call the planes back. Kubrick’s characters: Dr. Strangelove, President MertinMuffley, Premier Kissof and others, go through a series a misadventures to try and turn theplanes around. But the one, plane piloted by Major +King+ Kong, does get through, and itdrops its bombload. This is where Kubrick tries to show the futility of everything. Thegovernments of both the worlds superpowers have thousands of safeguards and securityprecautions for their nuclear weapons. But one man manages to get a nuclear warhead to behit its target. And this warhead hits the +Doomsday Device+. The Doomsday device is theultimate deterrent, because if you try to disarm it it will go off. It has the capabilityto destroy every living human and animal on Earth, and it does So it is all pointless. Wehave these weapons, and no matter how hard we try to control them everyone still dies. Andso to make ourselves feel better about all this impending doom, Kubrick, like Vonnegut,satirizes the entire system. By making such moronic characters, like the wimpish PresidentMertin Muffley, Kubrick is saying, similar to Vonnegut with Dr. Hoenikker, that we are evenworse off because these weapons are controlled by people that are almost buffoonish andchildish. General Ripper, the man who causes the end of the world, is a portrait of aMcCarthy era paranoid gone mad. He thinks the communists are infiltrating and trying todestroy are country. And he says the most heinous communist plot against democracy isfluoridation of water:Like I was saying, Group Captain, fluoridation of water is the mostmonstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face . . . Theypollute our precious bodily fluids! (George 97)And General Rippers personal prevention ofthe contamination of his bodily fluids is equally perplexing. He drinks only + . . . distilled water, or rain water, and only grain alcohol . . .+Kubrick uses this kind ofabsurd reasoning in his movie to show the absurd reasoning behind nuclear weapons. Both himand Vonnegut were part of the satirical side of the apocalyptic temper in the earlySixties. They laughed at our governments, our leaders, the Cold War and the arms race, andtried to show how stupid it all really was. But as time moved on, the writers, and theentire country, started to take a less narrow minded view of things. The counterculture ofthe Gioielli 9sixties prompted people to take a closer look at themselves. As thinkers,teachers, lovers, parents, friends and human beings. And people concerned with nuclearweapons started to see things in a broader context as well. Nuclear weapons were somethingthat affected our whole consciousness. The way we grew up, our relationships with othersand what we did with our lives. One of the authors who put this new perspective on thingswas the activist, social thinker and poet Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg first made a name forhimself in the 1950+s as one of the foremost of the Beat writers. The Beats in the Fiftieswere a forerunner of the more widespread counterculture of the late Sixties and earlySeventies. And Ginsberg evolved into this. He became a devoted leader in thecounterculture, who set many precedents for the Hippie generation. He lived in variouscommunes, delved deeply into eastern religions and experimented with numerous hallucinogenicdrugs. In the earlier part of his life Ginsberg had been a rebel against society. He wasstill a rebel but now he was taking the form of activist. By the Seventies he was involvedin many causes that promoted peace and world harmony. What separated Ginsberg from otheractivists is that he was one of the first and original members of many of these movements.Now he was the father figure to many in the non-mainstream world. While teaching at hisschool of poetry in Naropa, Colorado, Ginsberg became involved in protests against thenearby Rock Flats Nuclear Weapons Factory. During the Summer of 1978 he was arrested forpreventing a shipment nuclear waste from reaching its destination and for numerous otherprotests against the facility (Miles 474). From these experiences came two poems +NagasakiDays+ and + Plutonium Ode+.Both these poems exhibit Ginsberg’s more mature style of writing(Miles 475). The poems are more scholarly, containing many mythological and religiousallusions. But both these characteristics show how post war apocalyptic literature hadevolved. By the Seventies many writers, instead of taking the defeatist, satirical viewlike Vonnegut, were beginning to take a make activist standpoint, like Ginsberg.Apocalyptic literature also took on a more mature, scholarly tone, and was more worldly andhad a broader viewpoint. This stanza from +Nagasaki Days+ shows how Ginsberg is puttingnuclear weapons into the context of the universal:2,000,000 killed in Vietnam13,000,000refugees in Indochina200,000,000 years for the Galaxy to revolve on its core 24,000 theBabylonian great year24,000 half life of plutoniumGioielli 102,000 the most I ever got for apoetry reading80,000 dolphins killed in the dragnet4,000,000,000 years earth been born(701)The half life of plutonium is brought together with dolphins and Indochinese refugees.Also, Ginsberg makes a reference to the Babylonian great year, which coincides with the halflife of plutonium. This cosmic link intrigued Ginsberg immensely. That fact alone inspiredhim to right +Plutonium Ode+. The whole poem expands on this connection to plutonium as aliving part of our universe, albeit a very dangerous one. Here he mentions the GreatYear:Before the Year began turning its twelve signs, ere constellationswheeled fortwenty-four thousand sunny yearsslowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundredsixty-seven thousandtimes returning to this night. (702) Ginsberg is also relating thegreat year, and the half life of plutonium, to the life of the Earth. The life of the Earthis approximately four billion years, which is 24,000 times 167,000 (Ginsberg 796)In+Plutonium Ode+, Ginsberg talks to plutonium. By establishing a dialogue he gives theplutonium almost human characteristics. It is something, and is near us every day, and isdeadly. In this passage he is asking how long before it kills us all:I enter your secretplaces with my mind, I speak with your presence,I roam your lion roar with mortal mouth.Onemicrogram inspired to one lung, ten pounds of heavy metal dust,adrift slowly motion overgray Alpsthe breadth of the planet, how long before your radiance speeds blight and deathto sentient beings. (703) In putting his nuclear fears and worries on the table, andsaying that these things have pertinence to us because they affect how we live our lives andthe entire the universe, Ginsberg is showing how intrigued he is with plutonium in thispoem.By the time Ginsberg was publishing these poems in late 1978, post war literature hadevolved immensely. At first people had no idea about the bomb and its capabilities. Then,as more information came out about what the bomb could do, they began to began to start tolive in real fear of nuclear weapons. The power of it, a creation by man that could destroythe world, that was terrifying. Then some artists and writers began to see the absurdity ofit all. They saw that we were under control by people we did not, or should not, trust, andwere a constant state of nuclear Gioielli 11fear. So they satirized the systemunmercifully, and were very apocalyptic in their tone. But then things evolved from thesenarrow minded viewpoints, and people began to envision nuclear weapons in the context of ourworld and our lives. The atomic bomb and nuclear proliferation affected all facets of ourlifestyle, including what we read. Literature is a reflection of a country+s culture andfeelings. And literature affected Americans curiosity, horror, anxiety, cynicism and hopeconcerning nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons raised questions that no one had dare everasked before, and had given them answers that they were afraid to hear. They have made usthink about our place in the universe, and what it all means. Gioielli 12WorksCitedBartter, Martha A. The Way to Ground Zero. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988. Dewey,Joseph. In a Dark Time. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1990.Dr. Strangelove. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. With Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and SlimPickens. Highland Films Ltd., 1966.(This is a novelization of the movie. All qoutationsfrom the movie were transribed form this book) Einstein, Albert. +Sir+ (a letter toPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt) Einstein: The Life and Times. Ronald W. Clark. NewYork: World Publishing, 1971. 556-557.George, Peter. Dr. Strangelove. Boston: GreggPress, 1979.Ginsberg, Allen. +Nagasaki Days+ and +Plutonium Ode.+ Collected Poems:1947+1980. Ed. Allen Ginsberg. New York: Harper and Row, 1984. 699-705. Gleick, James. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. New York :Vintage Books,1992.Hersey, John. Hiroshima. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.Miles, Barry. Ginsberg: ABiography. New York: Harper Perennial, 1989.Stone, Albert E. Literary Aftershocks:American Writers, Readers and the Bomb. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1994.Vonnegut, Kurt.Cat+s Cradle. New York:Dell, 1963.literary specialist.txtRobGioiellirrgioie@univscvm.csd.scarolina.eduenglishenglishthe atomic bomb and it’s effects onpost wwll american literatureA-Honors High School18 yearsUSAE-mail