The Beauty of Disaster

"Horoshima" by John Hersey

'No Literation w/o Documantation'

Hersey, John. Hiroshima. Ishi Press, December 23, 2009. Book.

'The Man Behind the Pen'
     John Hersey was born in June 17, 1914 in Tientsin, China. His parents were missionaries named Roscoe and Grace Baird Hersey. After the first ten years of his life, Hersey came to the United States with his parents. He initially attended Yale but later went on to graduate at Cambridge. From his secretary job for Sinclair Lewis in 1937 he went to work for Time Magazine. After two years, Hersey was transferred to Times Chungking Bureau. During WWII he covered the fighting going on in both Europe and Asia, writing articles for Time, Life, and The New Yorker. One of the first of these articles was an article about J.F Kennedy and the PT-109 rescue. This article was later reprinted in Reader's Digest.
     His first two books, Man and Bataan (1942) and Into the Valley (1943), were both based on patriotic events, his second book becoming a personal event when the unit he was accompanying came under heavy fire, and he was pressured into becoming a stretcher bearer. He was later commended by the Navy for assisting the wounded.
     After these exhilarating events, Hersey was transferred to the Mediterranean Theatre where he covered the Allies' invasion and occupation of Sicily. His first novel, A Bell for Adano (1944), won the Pulitzer Prize. This achievement was listed on the same front page as the announcement of the end of the war in Europe. After the war was over he was sent to cover China and Japan by Time and The New Yorker.
     John Hersey died on March 24, 1993 in his Key West home. The obituary in The New Yorker stated ""Hiroshima" might have been "the most famous magazine article ever published" and went on to state "If ever there was a subject calculated to make a writer overwrought and a piece overwritten it was the bombing of Hiroshima; yet Hersey's reporting was so meticulous, his sentences and paragraphs were so clear, calm, and restrained, that the horror of the story he had to tell came through all the more chillingly" (The New Yorker).
     The article "Hiroshima" was originally published in August 1946 in The New Yorker. It was initially supposed to be issude in four seperate parts consecutavely, however, John Hersey thought  that that interupted the flow of the story. So he asked Harold Ross, the founder of The New Yorker, is they could print a whole edition containing his article. Ross agreed to the idea and kept this a secert from the New Yorker editorial staff, whom had no clue to what was to come in their August 1946 edition. When this edition was published an editor's note wrote:

 "TO OUR READERS The New Yorker this week devotes its entire editorial space to an article on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb, and what happened to the people of that city. It does so in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use.&endash; The Editors"

People reacted differently from this publication. Some opponent news articles stated that they were flabbergasted at the seriousness that the, usualy humerous, New Yorker took on this article. Most reactions were positive, many recieing the point of the article, but not regretting having dropped the bomb.

Some of his other writtings, not listed previously, are:
     1. Blues (1987)
     2. The Call (1985)
     3. The Walnut Door (1977)
     4. The President (1975)
     5. My Petition For More Space (1974)
     6. The Writer's Craft (1974)
     7. The Conspiracy (1972)
     8. Letter to the Alumni (1970)
     9. The Algiers Motel Incident (1968)
     10. Under The Eye of The Storm (1967)
     11. Too Far To Walk (1966)
     12. White Lotus (1965)
     13. Here To Stay (1963)
     14. The Child Buyer (1960)
     15. The War Lover (1959)
     16. A Single Pebble (1956)
     17. The Marmot Drive (1953)
     18. The Wall (1950)

'Idle To The Title'
John Hersey's book title 'Hiroshima' is an article transformed to a book, about the stories of six survivors from the historical bombing of Hiroshima and their lives forty years later. That is the sum of the title and it's relationship to the book.

'Roku Hibakusha*'
*Hibakusha-  explosion-affected persons (what the Hiroshima survivors were reffered to)
John Hersey follows the lives of six people and their lives during and after the bombing of Hiroshima.
Of these six people is a Toshinki Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, a Dr. Masakuza Fujii, a physician, a Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, a Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest, a Dr. Terafumi Sasaki, a young surgeon,and a Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor for the Hiroshima Methodist Church. Throughout the book, these six people intermingle with each other, at that time, unaware that their stories woud late be told.

'Two Major Settings'
One major location in John Hersey's "Hiroshima" was Hiroshima itself. The most obvious reason that this was an important location was that itwas where the bomb was droppe and where the whole basis of the book came from. Not only that, each of the 'Roku Hibakusha' were a certain distance from Hiroshima.
The second imporatant location was Asano Park. It was here that many refuge's from Hiroshima went for shelter. Several of the man characters in this book also went there. Mrs. Nakamura and her family went there, Father Kleinsorge and his companions ventured here, and Reverend Tanimoto also made the journey here.

'Significant Events'
Because of the mass numbe of events that occured to each individual person, I've grouped each individual into an event that they each shared.
Significant Event #1:
Where each Hibakusha was when the bomb was dropped:
  • Miss Sasaki was located in her office at East Tin Works and was about to speak to a companion,
  • Dr. Fujii was sitting down to read a paper on the porch of his private hospital,
  • Mrs. Nakamura was watching a neighbor tear down his house,
  • Father Kleinsorge was laying on a cot reading a Jesuit magazine,
  • Dr. Sasaki was carrying a blood specimen down a corridor,
  • and Reverend Tanimoto was about to unload a cart of cloths.
I felt this was significant because it is the starting point for each of their journey's.

Significant Event #2:
What the Hibakusha did immediatly after the bomb was dropped:
  • Miss Sasaki was unconcious
  • Dr. Fujii was squezzed between two timbers in a V across his chest
  • Mrs. Nakamura was digging up her children
  • Father Kleinsorge was wondering around in a vegetable garden
  • Dr. Sasaki was mening his and refuge's wounds
  • and Reverand Tanimoto was looking in awe at the distruction of the bomb
I felt this was significant because it shows what there reactions were to what had just happened to them.

Significant Event #3:
Whether these Hibakusha ever met:
  • Father Kleinsorge met the Nakamura family and helped them at Asano Park and later offered advise to Mrs. Nakamura.
  • Father Kleinsorge met Reverand Tanimoto and helped him ferry people across the Kyo River.
  • Father Kleinsorge met Dr. Fujii on a train on December 21st.
  • Miss Sasaki met Father Kleinsorge when he went to visit her at the hospital and later also gave her advise on what covanent to join.
  • Miss Sasaki met Dr. Sasaki when she was put under his care at the Red ross Hospital.
I felt this was important because it showed how strangers will help each other out during a time of crisis and how each chosen interviewee was somehow connected to another.

Significamt Event #4:
What the Hibakusha's reactions were to the dropping of the bomb:
  • Miss Sasaki never really thought about the bomb but later felt that too much attention was placed on the bombing and not enough was being placed on the Korean War.
  • Dr. Fujii felt that it couldn't be prevented because it was a time of war.
  • Mrs.Nakamura also felt that it couldn't be helped.
  • Father Kleinsorge felt that the dropping of the bomb was a case of mystery and awe to him.
  • Dr. Sasaki felt that the men who dropped the bomb should be hanged
  • Reverend Tanimoto felt indifferent to the dropping of the bomb.
This is significant because it tells what each persons feeling were towards the dropping of the bomb.

Significant Event #5:
Who was affected by radiation poisoning:
  • Mrs. Nakamura lost her hair and suffered from frequent exhaustion.
  • Father Kleinsorge was severely hit by radition poisoning and died from it.
  • Miss Sasaki never had long lasting radiation poisoning but did become a cripple.
  • Dr. Fujii suffered from undetailed effects of radiation poisoning and died from brain antrophied, kidney enlargement and cancer the size of a ping-pong ball in his liver.
  • Dr. Sasaki sufferd from the radiation poisoning when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and his whole left lung had to be removed.
  • Reverend Tanimoto also never suffered from radiation poisoning.
This is significant because one of the greatest consuquences of dropping the bomb were the after effects of the radiation in the air from the bomb.

Significant Event #6:
What the Hibakusha did to support themselves after the bombing:
  • Mrs. Nakamura did a variety of things. She sewed, she collected money for newspaper, she sold fish, she delivered bread and finally settled at Suyama Chemicals where she worked for thirteen years.
  • Miss Sasaki worked as an attendant at the orphanage her siblings were in, transferred to another orphanage, became qualified to be a Third Class Bookkeeper, and joined a covanent wher she became Sister Dominique Sasaki.
  • Dr. Fujii re-established his hospital.
  • Father Kleinsorge continued to worry about others more then himself and followed his church.
  • Dr.Sasaki built his own health business based on the well-beng ofthe patient, not the money.
  • Reverend Tanimoto volenteered for many things that were supposed to help Hiroshima survivors, but got no thanks and little credit for the great aount of work he put into the projects and ended up living in a small house, with only a dog and was starting to lose his memory.
This is significant because it continues the flow of the story and sets up something like a timeline, giving the before, after and in the future (or in this case present).

Significant Event #7:
What occured during the Hibakusha's personal lives after the bombing:
  • Ms. Sasaki never married and never had kids and dedicated her life to volenteer work.
  • Dr. Fujii re-married and had five kids with one grandson.
  • Mrs. Nakamura never re-married and her kids were all married. Toshio, an arranged marriage, Yaeko a love marriage and Myeko an arranged marriage.
  • Father Kleinsorge married.
  • Dr. Sasaki married a women whoms father initially never wanted them to wed.
  • Reverend Tanimoto never married and got a dog named Chiko.
This is significant because it adds detail to the "timeline" I stated previously.

Significant Event #8:
Who was still alive when this book was published:
  • Ms. Sasaki was alive
  • Dr. Fujii died of brain antrophy, kidney enlargment and cancer in his liver.
  • Mrs. Nakamura was alive
  • Father Kleinsorge died from symptoms of radiatio poisoning
  • Dr. Sasaki was alive, w/o a left lung
  • Reverend Tanimoto was alive
This is significant because it gives the reader a "Where are they now?" answer.

Significant Event #9:
What happen to the Hibakusha offspring:
  • Ms. Sasaki never had children
  • Dr. Fujii's five children and grandson followed his practice
  • Mrs. Nakamura's son graduated from high school and became a train engineer for Japanese National Railways. Her daughter Yaeko never finished high school and married a frequent guiest at the inn she was working in. and Myeko graduated from hig school, becane an expert typist, began teaching a class and was put through an arranged marriage.
  • Father Kleinsorge married but never had children.
  • Dr. Sasaki's wife died of breast cancer before they could bear children.
  • Reverend Tanimoto never had children.
This is significant because it also gives a "Where are they now?" answer.

Significant Events #10:
Hersey lists the spreading of atomic bomb usage towards the end of his book. He lists:
  • "On July 1, 1946, before the first  anniversary of the bombing, the United States had tested an atomic bomb at the Bikini Atoll. On May 17, 1948, the Americans announced the succesful completion of another test."
  • "On September 23, 1949, Moscow Radio announced that the Soviet Union had developed an atomic bomb."
  • "In October 1952, Great Britain conducted its first est of an atomic bomb and the United States its first of a hydrogen bomb. In August 1953, the Soviet Union also tested a hydrogn bomb."
  • "On March 1, 1954, th Lucky Dragon No. 5 was showevered wit radioactive fallout from an American test at Bikini Atoll."
  • "On May 15, 1957, Great Britain conducted its first hydrogen bomb test, on Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean."
  • "On February 13, 1960, France tested a nuclear weapon in the Sahara. On October 16, 1964, China carried out its first nuclear test, and on June 17, 1967, it exploded a hydrogen bomb."
  • "On May 18, 1974, India conducted its first nuclear test"

'Narrative Tone'
Throughout this book, Hersey kept the tone unbias and informative. He kept this tone so that people would believe that he was unbias and was simply telling these people's stories. Many readers reacted negatively to this tone, but Hersey felt that this tone was the best to take. Even when he went back 40 years later to see these people, he kept the tone unbias and informative to keep these peoples stories as "pure" and real as they wer told.

'Best Chapter'
Out of the five chapters "Hiroshima" contained, my favorite would have to be chapter one. In this chapter, Hersey describes what the Hibakusha were doing and what their reactions were to the bombing. I liked this chapter the best because Hersey described each individuals reaction to what had just happened to them. Most of them were completely confused as to what had just happened. Even throughout the book, none of them knew that an atomic bomb was dropped on them. They did make theories as to what did happen, but it wasn't until the fifth chapter that they all realized it was an atomic bomb. Some reacted in a state a shock while others, like Mrs. Nakamura, were too worried about the well-being of others to even consider what had happened.

This book begins with the location of each Hibakusha. The people who were experiencing events were not organized n a certain pattern. He told their stories at random but in chronological order starting from where they were the moment the bomb was dropped to wear these people were forty years later. Between these two times he tells of the Hibakusha's experiences, what they saw and who they met along their journey's. He gave very detailed description of what these people were seeing and what their experiences were. He was especially descriptive of the wounds that many hibakusha suffered rendering images in ones head that need not be described. Throughout the book he also tells of the research, laws and events of the war that occurred in the timeframe being set. He speaks of the research and findings of patients who suffered from radiation poisoning. He also mentioned how this encounter may cause problems for a disease such as cancer. He also tells of laws that were put into place about the Hibakusha and the benefits they should be receiving. He also mentioned that a revision of such laws, helped hibakusha like Mrs. Nakamura to make their livings. He also vaguely mentions the Korean war and how mothers of baby's, whose father were soldiers, would leave their babies at the orphanage Miss Sasaki was transferred to, and that the next door soldiers would sneak off the camp sites to see their alleged offspring. He even added a whole chapter describing the hibakusha's lives forty years after the bomb was dropped. Throughout this chapter he lists the advances of the atomic age and matches them to the indicated time frame.

This was, literally, my first non-fiction book that I've read outside of school. I'm not a memoir kind of girl. I like fiction and sci-fi. But I have to say, for being a non-fiction book, this book was quite interesting. I was very interested in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when i learned about them sophomore year. Especially when we wrote a paper on how we felt about the bombing of oroshima and Nagasaki. This assisgnment got me thinking about how vistims from the bombing felt about it. To be able to read what victims of this bombing wear going through was a very interesting experience for me. I found it especially interesting that some of the hibakusha felt indifferent towards the bombing. I expected every victim to hae been furious with Truman and the pilots that dropped the bomb. So if you're interestd in the bombing of Hiroshima and what it was like for the people who went through it, i would definitely recommend this book. I would especially recommend it as a source for a research project on the subject of bomb usage and the consequences of said usage or on the bombing of Hiroshima itself.