Griffin Dangler Shawn Smith Honors American Literature 27 June 2012 The Use of Atomic Weapons On August 6th, 1945, the world was forever changed when the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The attack was made as an attempt to end World War 2, and it succeeded at a devastating price. John Hersey’s Hiroshima depicts six different accounts of victims of the bomb. The journalistic novel tells how each of the people began their day, how they survived the explosion, the response, and where they were 40 years later.
Each account is different, and they all represent the various ways that the bomb hurt the people. These six individual catastrophes illustrate the horrible effects of atomic bombs and how the use of them should not be even considered by any empathetic human being. First, there is Dr. Terfumi Sasaki, a twenty-five year old surgeon who wasn’t physically harmed by the bomb. He was in the Red Cross hospital where he worked when the bomb went off. After the explosion he rushed to help those around him. Dr. Sasaki represents all of the people who were not physically harmed but were mentally scarred.
Much of his time in the years following the war was spent treating keloids. Keloids are the wounds that formed after the initial burns of the explosion; more than half of those within two kilometers of the explosion got them (Invisible Effects of A-Bomb). He worked endlessly to try and remove these scars. His work was not very successful and eventually he moved away to start a clinic. This shows that he wanted a clean start and to get away from the terrifying memories. Dr. Sasaki is a perfect example of how atomic weapons can not only scar people physically, but mentally as well.
Dr. Masakazu Fujii was a doctor who ran a private clinic in the city of Hiroshima. He was outside his clinic when the bomb hit and the explosion crushed the building and sent both of them flying into the river. In the following years, he rebuilt his clinic and traveled to New York with the Hiroshima Maidens. The Hiroshima Maidens were 25 young women who were scarred by the blast and brought to New York for reconstructive surgery 10 years after the bomb (Mehren). He coped with the tragedy by trying to be as happy as possible, drinking, playing golf, and making money.
Dr. Fujii had the least traumatic regrouping, but he still had to rebuild his clinic as well as his life because of the atomic bomb. Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto was a Methodist preacher who was educated in America. He represents all of the Japanese who had ties to America. He, like Dr. Sasaki, was not hurt and rushed to help others. He helped other victims more than anyone else in the book because of his ties to America. The reader can see that his guilt for his American ties and not being hurt drive him to prove his allegiance.
After the war ended, he traveled to America to give speeches and try to raise money for a peace center in Japan. Reverend Tanimoto’s story shows us how the bomb created suffering in the minds, as well in the body, because he felt he really had to prove his loyalty. Next, there is Toshiko Sasaki. She was a clerk working when the bomb hit and an enormous bookcase fell, pinning her. Miss Sasaki is the character that is most associated with the civilians of Hiroshima. This is because she is the one that is physically hurt the worst and is maimed by the bomb.
There were 30,500 people severely injured and 48,600 slightly injured (Johnston). When the bookcase fell, it broke her leg and she became one of those 30,500. She had to wait for weeks to get treatment and the leg grew infected. The lack of medical response was not uncommon because there were only 3,270 medical personnel in the city (Johnston). Her leg never fully healed and she suffered the most stress after the war out of all of the other characters. She was crippled, her fiance abandoned her, and she struggled to cope with the physical and emotional damage.
It was only when she converted to Christianity and became a nun that she found true purpose. Even though she traveled and grew to be optimistic, the bomb still crushed her life and took her leg. Unfortunately, most of the civilians of Hiroshima identified with her story rather than the others and that is a testament to the horrors of atomic weaponry. Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge presents another unique side of the bombing. He was a German Priest that lived in a mission as well as the only Non-Japanese character in the book.
He provides the perspective of a foreigner and helps show how the people came together. In the aftermath, he helped other victims to safety but shortly fell victim to radiation sickness. This sickness can cause weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increase in bleeding and lowered defense against infection (Radiation Sickness). This made Kleinsorge bedridden and hospitalized him on several occasions. His story illustrates how even those who were not immediately hurt grew to be physically ill from the radiation. Finally, there is the story of Mrs.
Hatsuyo Nakamura. She is the only one of the characters that is directly responsible for a family. Mrs. Nakamura was the widow of a tailor and was raising three children when the bomb hit Hiroshima. They were not harmed, but later she and her daughter fell victim to radiation sickness. This threw the family into the hands of poverty and the family had to struggle in the years following the bombing. It was this poverty that hit the city harder than the bomb. Her story shows how the bombing ruined families for years after the explosion itself.
The devastation of the atomic bomb scarred these people for life both emotionally and physically. John Hersey’s novel is tremendous proof of the disgusting power of atomic weapons. The novel says, “The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands… ” (Hersey). Each of the six characters in the book depict different tragedies that came from the bombing. In an ideal world, these bombs would not exist because their only product is destruction, but sadly, they do.
Because of this, it is our duty as human beings to acknowledge that there is no benefit to these weapons and to agree to never use them. Unfortunately, humans as a whole are not logical enough to realize this, and will continue to build them until we are given more evidence like Hiroshima to shock us back into perspective. Hersey, John . Hiroshima. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. , 1946. “Invisible Effects of A-Bomb. ” Online. 26 June 2012. <http://www. chugoku-np. co. jp/abom/97e/peace/e/06/bakugeki. htm>.
Mehren , Elizabeth. “Hiroshima Maidens Remembered : Author Traces the Life Paths of Surviving Blast Victims. ” Online. 26 June 2012. <http://www. chugoku-np. co. jp/abom/97e/peace/e/06/bakugeki. htm>. Johnston, Robert . “Hiroshima Atomic Bombing, 1945. ” 16 October 2012. Online. 26 June 2012. <http://www. johnstonsarchive. net/nuclear/radevents/1945JAP1. html>. “Radiation Sickness. ” Questia. The Columbia Encyclopedia. 26 June 2012. <http://www. questia. com/library/encyclopedia/radiation-sickness. jsp&am