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

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 epithetĀ '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.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Berger, an English art critic, wrote the essay "Hiroshima" in 1981 after seeing images drawn by Japanese people of the bombings of Hiroshima in 1945. He writes of these drawings, "they were images of hell." His thesis is that the images help remind us of the brutal reality of the bombings in a way words can't. He believes that while the factual record of what happened at Hiroshima exists in textbooks, the meaning of the facts has been erased through "a process of suppression and elimination." He states that the physical reality of the destruction and the moral reality of the American action of dropping the bombs have been wiped out. While the conversation around nuclear weapons stresses such concepts as deterrence, the reality of the human devastation the bomb created has been lost. As he writes, "We consider numbers instead of pain." His essay aims to remind the reader of the human pain the bombs inflicted.

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