Hiroshima by John Hersey | Review


There is no doubt that the bombing on Hiroshima was a completely unethical demonstration of the newly discovered atomic power. With a great amount of damage still to be seen in Hiroshima it begs the question, were the unethical practices of the Hiroshima bombing worth the American lives saved? Without fully knowing the severity of the aftermath, it is hard to say and many might believe ending the war then by using atomic power is a good thing. That is until we know the scale of the bomb and what the survivors went through.
Filling the void of knowledge within one of the most significant events in history, John Hersey notices this and educates the world.

Being one of the first examples of New Journalism. John Hersey finds a great opportunity to write the stories of the 6 survivors in a fictional storytelling way while keeping it non fiction. It was this way of writing which made me feel more confused than anything as I treated it like a fictional book comparing it to other fictional books. The character development in my favourite trilogy is far more prominent to that of John Hersey’s ‘Hiroshima’. The story starts with our protagonist getting pulled out of their normal life and getting many challenges thrown at them along the way. These challenges cause our character to learn and change. This is what character development is, and it plays a very prominent role in most fictional stories.

By choosing to focus on 6 survivors at once, it makes it hard to follow any character closely. This makes it hard to see any character development. However, John Hersey has done a great job on splitting up the characters and making emphatic descriptions giving the entire book a tone of hopefulness and despair. With all the details given, it overcompensates for the lack of connection with the survivors as it helps you feel as if you were there with them.

“She had seen so much death in Hiroshima after the bombing, and had seen what strange things so many people did when they were cornered by death, that nothing now surprised or frightened her”.

– John Hersey

With the idea of educating the world. John Hersey brought the 6 survivor stories together very well. By following up on how the bomb affected the rest of their lives, we can see how one push of a button will haunt someone for the rest of their lives. By separating the survivors we get a great understanding of how it may affect someone differently and how such a terrible experience can cause the mind to cope in many different ways. Following the characters in such detail in the last chapter of the book, would’ve been a great way to show character development. Unfortunately, John Hersey only cared to give this detail towards the end of the book making a lack of emotional connection to the survivors.

With the good and bad of this story, we can definitively say that John Hersey’s use of New Journalism was an effective way to show homage to the survivors and make Americans reconsider celebrating their win against the Japanese. We also get a far greater understanding of how powerful the bomb is and how strong unified willpower is within a community.

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