Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series Hiroshima Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Hiroshima is credited with inaugurating the “nonfiction novel” and anticipating the movement known as New Journalism. John Hersey—already a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and well-known war correspondent—uses many of the techniques of fiction to make this true story immediate and emotionally effective. He originally planned to present his own observations of the ruined city, but he was inspired by Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) to structure an interwoven narrative featuring several principal personages.

The two women and four men are vivid, distinct individuals, but they also stand for the hundred thousand killed and even more injured or made homeless by the bomb, providing an emotional impact that numbers lack. They function as representative Everyman characters, with the same concerns, needs, and sentiments as Hersey’s readers. The actions of the six people during and after the bomb blast follow naturally from their characters as Hersey views them, a natural mixture of fear and courage, cooperation and self-interest.

The book is also notable for its concrete observation, presented primarily in an objective, even clinical tone. By not interpreting the scenes, Hersey leaves the reader to form an impression, rather than be told—but that impression is subtly guided by what the author presents. For example, he further creates sympathy through homey, telling details, such as Mrs. Nakamura...

(The entire section is 544 words.)