I'm interested about how Hersey's book affected your knowledge of, or feelings about this historical event. What elements of the text had an impact on you? Has that impact been positive or negative?
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The book Hiroshima by John Hersey is a book that should be taught in the high schools of the United States. This book written almost immediately after the end of World War II tells the story of six survivors of the bombing. Hersey followed each person from the beginning of the day through the first week and even as to what happened to them after the book was first completed in a chapter that he added later. The story needs to be read because no one should forget August 6, 1945, and the bombing of Hiroshima.
Hersey wrote the book like a reporter and attempted not to interject any emotional opinions either way. The stories are graphic, but tell what happened so that he reader will know the devastation reeked by the bombing.
Each survivor comes from a different background, lifestyle, and age. Some were badly hurt but most suffered from light cases of radiation sickness. Most of the them never meet in the days following the bombing.
I believe that no person who did not live in that time period or who did not suffer from the devastation prior to the bombing can fairly judge whether the bomb should have been dropped on August 6, 1945. World War II was a terrible time for all the countries involved particularly in Europe. The US was forced into the war by the Japanese, and for the “naysayers” for not dropping the bomb do not forget the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor which cost many lives and millions of dollars.
In the book, Hersey gives very little of his own commentary. Howevr, at the end of Chapter one, he gives an intriguing quotation. Miss Sasaki, who was an office clerk, was standing near a large bookcase full of huge books. When the bomb hit, the bookcase fell over onto Miss Sasaki, whose leg was crushed under the books and wooden case. No one found her for several hours, and she almost lost her leg. Miss Sasaki was forever crippled, but she did survive.
This first chapter ends with a quotation about Miss Sasaki being crushed by books. Mankind's knowledge — symbolized by books — has becomes not a tool for improving life but a weapon of destruction.
What a watershed moment in time! The great thinkers [among them Einstein] employed their knowledge to create a monstrous weapon which allowed books, symbolic of man’s learning and humanity. That is irony: Books used as a part of the devastation of the bomb to badly wound someone. Books not used to advance learning but to harm an individual. The circle is broken.
I think most people would currently agree that this long essay, as it was originally published, put faces and names to the innocent victims of one of the most destructive decisions our country has made in the name of war.
I am a relatively young teacher and like most of my students, have never been directly connected to the face of war. Though I have a brother currently in the military and a father who was an Air Force pilot for many years, the face of modern war is very different from what it was just a few generations before I was born. It is easy for me to read in a history book that it was "necessary" to drop a bomb on Japan in order to end what looked to be a never ending conflict. It is easy for me to choose patriotism and support this decision because America was, and continues to be, a milataristic and political powerhouse on a global perspective. It is especially easy for me to think that as the world's "big brother," if we do not intervene in international conflict, problems will not be solved.
This book took what has always been a very distant and trusting perspective of war, and painted a very ugly face on it indeed. While it did not change my mind that the atomic bomb was necessary or worked, it show that even our "enemies" in war, are humans, and not very different from us.
I am thankful that I am an American, for many selfish and materialistic reasons. This book made me feel spoiled indeed. I didn't even feel worthy to pity the victims. It simply connected me to a place and time in history (and geography) and reminded me that humans are humans everywhere.
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