Truth is clouded by the unwillingness to alter your opinions, accentuating topics being perceived differently — but its effects aren’t the same everywhere. 

In the book Hiroshima, the survivors aren’t a symbol of strength but of sorrow and ignorance and growth, an idea we find in many ways unattractive. It is where we find these parts that we are at our most vulnerable and willing to change. John Hersey, the author, gives you all the information needed and lets you decide. Believing in the good of the atomic bomb and being against it will only confirm your prior beliefs. Bias; it’s the fatal flaw shared by many and fixed by few. It not only hurts your judgement of a book but ruins the experience the author is trying to show.

“People see what they want to see and what people want to see never has anything to do with the truth” – Roberto Bolano 

It is with Hiroshima that it captures the story arch of the Hibakusha, one that follows the hero’s journey, one that the reader is a part of the adventure. The Hiroshima civilians, the centre of attack for the US, are the ants endlessly killed by little kids with no regard for life. Dehumanized as pawns to the greater surrender of Japan, the deaths were just numbers on a page — having no empathy to the moral implications of the bombing. 

140,000. Is it just a number, right? Well, every number had a life, with friends and family, and was like you! Knowing someone on a human level and losing them is worse than just numbers on a page. It begins to paint a picture, and you can feel the pain onset in Japan. As well as changing our ideas, it alters the characters alongside your growth in knowledge. Detached from his values, Father Kleinsorge stated, “It’s funny, but things don’t matter anymore. Yesterday, my shoes were my most important possessions. Today, I don’t care. One pair is enough.” We tend to hold things at a much higher value than they are truly worth in society but the moment you realize materials are worth less than your life is the moment you will start living.

But it is with any piece of literature; we want to understand three basic questions: what is the author saying about the subject, what is the global effect, and why does it matter to us? There’s often a theme separated from the topic. Hiroshima has spurred global change in perception of atomic bombs and has made us wearier to the long-term effects on the people and culture. But what grabs me about this material? And how is it made interesting while being non-fiction? One word; connections. You can always be ignorant towards something that doesn’t involve you, but when he connects it to your country, it forces you to have an opinion on it. It makes you think for yourself rather than the book explicitly telling you what you should feel.

The third question — why does it matter to us —is entirely based on the person reading. However, it ultimately doesn’t matter unless we take meaning away from it. It’s not about the bombing; instead, it’s how perception changes through media and connections. Of course, you will be horrified by the surface-level bloodshed and gruesome nature, but it’s the deeper connections you make in the book which I think is the ultimate purpose of the text, challenging your previous knowledge. It reminds us of the human side of war — far greater than the bombing — teaching us a different perspective on history. As stated well by Holly, it’s not about making a revolutionary point on the remarks of the book but finding value/importance in an alternate perspective containing fundamental principles.

Who knows if today’s views will be the same as the future, but it is with Hiroshima, challenging previous knowledge, which is the sun shining through our clouded truths.