Free Study Guide: Hiroshima by John Hersey - Notes / Book Summary|
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FREE LITERARY CRITICISM - HIROSHIMA BY JOHN HERSEY
The reader’s impression of Mrs. Nakamura is a woman of great perseverance
and courage. Although Hersey gives few revealing insights into her thoughts
or feelings, as compared to the other characters, the reader nonetheless
admires her selfless work to support her three children. In this sense,
Mrs. Nakamura’s story is the truest survival tale of any of the characters.
Father Kleinsorge is a thirty-eight year-old German missionary priest with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Immediately after the bomb hits, he focuses on helping the wounded and over the years develops an even greater dedication to the Japanese, which leads him to seek citizenship and adopt the Japanese name of Father Makoto Takakura. He incurs only small cuts from the atomic bomb, but suffers years later from debilitating effects of the radiation, and dies in the 1970s with a loyal Japanese nurse by his side.
Father Kleinsorge’s is a story of a devoted pastor and missionary whose
A-bomb symptoms greatly slowed his work but who never put his own frailties
before the needs of others. If his body would allow it at all, he was
absorbed in serving other people. His atomic experience changes him: As
he cares for the wounded in Asano Park, he realizes that although he used
to become queasy at a cut finger, in the crisis he found new strength
to help gruesomely maimed people. The priest’s adoption of Japanese citizenship
is a telling demonstration of his dedication to the Japanese people. Father
Kleinsorge’s close relationship to Yoshiki-san is a touching picture of
his love for Japan being requited. She loyally serves him in his infirm
state, and stays with him until his death. The reader is moved by this
woman’s dedication, but also feels that her care is a fitting tribute
to Father Kleinsorge’s lifetime of work for the Japanese people. Hersey’s
portrayal of Father Kleinsorge is inspirational, emphasizing his dedicated
ministry to others even in the face of his own overwhelming physical debilitations.
Although the bomb seems to “win,” as complications from radiation sickness
take his life at a relatively early age, Father Kleinsorge’s story is
still one of personal triumph, as hundreds remember him and his influence
in their lives as he lays dying.
Dr. Sasaki is an idealistic, young surgeon working at the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital. He is the only uninjured doctor from the bomb, and in the chaotic aftermath, he treats thousands of victims from all over the city for three days straight with no sleep. After 5 years of continuing to treat bomb victims at the Red Cross Hospital, he escapes from the memories of the attack by starting his own private clinic outside of Hiroshima. He prospers greatly and tries to forget that he is a hibakusha, or bomb victim. The theme for Dr. Sasaki’s life is that he tries so hard to forget, yet cannot fully. Even after decades have passed, he is still haunted by his failure to properly label all the dead at the Red Cross Hospital, so that they could be properly honored. Other than this one memory, however, he is fairly successful in distancing himself from his trauma with the A-bomb. He achieves enormous financial success as a doctor and entrepreneur.
The reader feels that Dr. Sasaki is foolish to pretend he did not live
through such a life-altering experience as the atomic bomb attack. In
focusing on material success as he tries so hard to move on, he misses
opportunities for greater closeness with his wife and children. After
avoiding work with hibakusha for decades, in his 40s he is forced to reckon
with his own physical vulnerabilities as a hibakusha. It is only then,
faced with his own possible death, that he changes his ways and devotes
more energy to loving his family and caring compassionately for his patients.
Rev. Tanimoto is a hard-working and thoughtful pastor. He is largely unhurt by the atomic bomb attack, and spends the first several days afterward compassionately caring for the wounded and destitute of the city. He studied theology in Atlanta and corresponded with American friends until the war broke out, and after the war ends he returns to the U.S. several times to raise money for various Hiroshima peace causes. Rev. Tanimoto’s story is marked with well-intentioned efforts for Hiroshima and world peace, but also with a stark disconnection from the feelings of the people of Hiroshima and the actual developments in peace efforts in the city. He has good ideas, but moves them forward independently and often inappropriately. By the twilight of his life, it is obvious that his efforts strayed from the mainstream of Hiroshima’s wishes and did not amounted to much. In this sense, Rev. Tanimoto’s life is one of good intentions but few results.
Yet his benevolent heart shines through even as his failures mount. His decision
to adopt an abandoned baby when he is middle-aged, for example, reminds
the reader of his compassion. The scene of him comforting his dying nemesis,
Mr. Tanaka, with a psalm, is moving as it poignantly shows that in death
all people are equal and old wounds are more easily forgotten. Rev. Tanimoto’s
service to Mr. Tanaka shows his pastor heart and Christian forgiveness,
as well his recognition that all people deserve help when they are in
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Wolff, Rachel. "TheBestNotes on Hiroshima".
. 09 May 2017