Hiroshima Essay - Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series Hiroshima Analysis

John Hersey

Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces Hiroshima Analysis

What strikes the reader immediately about Hiroshima is the controlled tone of the work. As one of the earliest accounts of a momentous event in human history, the book avoids a wide-eyed, sensational presentation of destruction and horror that would befit more the purpose of propaganda than truth. Instead, John Hersey maintains the disciplined objectivity of the journalist. Anticipating by some twenty years the technique of the so-called New Journalism by which the “true” story is presented in the narrative format of a novel, Hersey has meshed the separate interviews into a narrative whole by cutbacks and dramatic juxtapositions which result in a unified story of character rather than of event. By avoiding a concentration on clinical or pathological descriptions of sickness and torment and by selecting scenes in which the survivors prevail over their circumstances, Hersey has created an account of courage and heroism particularly meaningful for readers of the twentieth century. With the supposed literary demise of the heroic figure and this century’s preoccupation with the antihero, the victim alienated from and destroyed by his society, Hiroshima stands as a philosophical antipode.

Yet the book makes its positive statement without reference to religion or a code of morality. The six survivors are heroic, but not because of their virtue. Neither the priest nor the minister, for example, calls upon God; there is no judgment, no...

(The entire section is 513 words.)