Why did John Hersey write the novel Hiroshima?Please explain at least three reasons with supporting evidence.

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Hersey's Hiroshima was published first by New Yorker magazine in 1946, then shortly after in book form. It is an account of the effects of the first nuclear bomb used in warfare, in 1945.

Hersey wrote Hiroshima as a nonfictional narrative account, using some novelistic techniques to tell the story. He follows the stories of six people who struggle to survive and help others in the wake of the explosion.

Hersey's style, which is straightforward and unadorned, reveals his purpose: to make the world aware of the destructive power of this weapon. There is no need for hyperbole or elevated language, the details speak for themselves. When eyeballs melt, the story tells itself.

Hersey's purpose is also evidenced by the nature of the publication of Hiroshima. New Yorker did not publicize its intent to tell this side of the story. Instead, Hiroshima was secretly planned and published in the August 31st issue in 1946. Even the magazine's cover did not reveal the story inside. New Yorker, in publishing the account this way, dropped a significant literary surprise on American readers, just as America had dropped a surprise on the Japanese people the year before, in the form of two atomic bombs.

It was important to Hersey and the editors at New Yorker to make the world aware of the true human cost of nuclear warfare. Yet, they did not accompany the story with a political appeal to eliminate nuclear weapons; their mission was to increase awareness and to raise questions in readers' minds.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before John Hersey wrote Hiroshima, much of the reporting had been on the technical or scientific aspects of dropping the atomic bombs. Little had appeared in print to examine the effects of the bomb on individuals. Russell Shorto writes the following in "John Hersey, the Writer Who Let 'Hiroshima' Speak for Itself," published in the New Yorker on August 31, 2016 (see the link below):

In choosing...to report on individual victims, to follow the unfolding of their lives in minute detail from the moment the bomb fell and as they struggled to exist through the ensuing weeks, Hersey did something altogether different. He bore witness.

According to the article by Shorto, Hersey felt that the immensity of what he had to convey led him to abandon traditional reportorial techniques to embrace novelistic techniques. In addition, Shorto says, quoting Hersey's son, that Hersey was motivated to write the novel because he had "a strong moral compass" in part because Hersey's parents were missionaries. His moral compass led him to want to disclose what the bomb had done to ordinary citizens in Japan. His other motivation might have come from growing up in China until age 11, as he had developed compassion and knowledge of other ways of life, particularly in Asia. Finally, although he does not come out and directly address the morality and wisdom of nuclear proliferation, it seems clear that one of Hersey's motivations was to stop the development of nuclear weapons.

lam123 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Hersey published this novel, the events of Hiroshima were still fresh in everyone's minds, but Americans did not realize yet that they really had no idea what happened in Hiroshima. Americans saw the bombing as a necessary evil and believed that this was a last resort. Hersey wasn't commenting on that specifically, but he was revealing a human side to the tragedy. Hiroshima was a place where civilians lived, and they are the victims of a terrifying strategy. He recognized that Americans justified the bombings too much and needed to see the complexity of the issue. This book helped Americans recognize the effects of the bombing on Japanese, physically and emotionally-- especially the long term effects. He was able to do this without demonizing America, which helped. A world where "necessary" evils of this proportion are devastating to the entire society, not just the victim.

At least one more reason Hersey wrote the book was to recognize Japanese moral character and show how they grew from the tragedy. The story follows six characters who show tremendous courage, charity, and strength.

As far as evidence is concerned in supporting these ideas, you will want to look for events in the novel that show character strength in the tragedy. Mr. Tanimoto is especially important because he becomes some sort of hero in American eyes, but fails to bring recognizance to American involvement in the rebuilding for peace.

jess987 | Student

Hiroshima is not a novel.

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