Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Hiroshima has the immediacy of fiction but is factual, taken from extensive interviews with six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, as well as from some written documents. The third-person narrative is sympathetic but almost clinically objective. John Hersey’s voice is apparent in his choice of events and details: of Japanese life, of the bomb’s devastation, of the victims’ personal reactions and feelings.

The work originally appeared with four sections, which cover increasingly longer periods of time. The first, “A Noiseless Flash,” introduces the six people, none of whom know why they lived when others died. Flashbacks and the depiction of the moment before the bomb detonated establish the characters and situations of those involved, but the focus is on the instant of the explosion and its immediate effects. Most of the six survivors are trapped by rubble but can free themselves; Dr. Terfumi Sasaki only loses his slippers and eyeglasses, while Toshiko Sasaki (no relation) is seriously injured, imprisoned by falling bookcases. Hersey emphasizes both the capricious nature of the bomb’s impact and the stunned ignorance of its victims regarding what exactly happened.

The second section, “The Fire,” describes the first several hours after the atomic bomb, as a firestorm sweeps the flattened city. Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura rescues her children and flees, like many others, to Asano Park, a relatively intact private...

(The entire section is 514 words.)