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What is John Berger's thesis statement in his essay "Hiroshima"?

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chimneyrock | eNoter

Posted February 22, 2012 at 12:19 AM via web

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What is John Berger's thesis statement in his essay "Hiroshima"?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 23, 2012 at 4:15 AM (Answer #1)

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John Berger's 1981 essay "Hiroshima" is a look at the consequences of the 1945 nuclear bombing of the titular Japanese city during World War II. He speaks of the suppression of nuclear facts by the government, and how the people who died in the bombing, as well as those who continued to die from radiation poisoning, have been all but ignored in the public eye.

Since it is not an academical essay, but rather a reflective one (almost an article), "Hiroshima" is not divided into parts and so a thesis statement is hard to pin down. For example, he writes:

The whole incredible problem begins with the need to reinsert those events of 6 August 1945 back into living consciousness.
(Berger, "Hiroshima," Google Books)

This is the first line of the essay, and on the surface is the entirety of Berger's point; we are so far removed from the horrors of WWII and the drastic measures taken to end it that we forget about the actual event, the people who died, and the people who are still dying. However, he goes on to write:

...Hiroshima was perpetrated by the most powerful alliance in the world against an enemy who was.. admitting defeat. To apply the epithet 'terrorist' to the acts of bombing... is logically justifiable, and I do so because it may help to re-insert that act into living consciousness...
(Berger, "Hiroshima," Google Books)

While the main point remains, Berger was also seeking to apply a medium of moral and ethical crime to the bombing, something that in its rhetoric changes no opinions. He concludes:

One of evil's principal modes of being is looking beyond (with indifference) that which is before the eyes... in reality -- the reality to which the survivors and the dead bear witness -- it can never be justified.
(Berger, "Hiroshima," Google Books)

So while his stated thesis is that we need to remember and understand the bombing of Hiroshima instead of relegating it to pages torn out of history, his underlying thesis is that the United States committed an unnecessary act of terrorism against Japan, and it should be held accountable to the country and the surviving people.

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