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John Hersey's Hiroshima is a factual account about the day the United States
government dropped the first atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. John
interviewed six survivors and reported their stories in a factual but
interesting fashion. He gives a brief description of each person and tells
of his or her daily activities both before and after the explosion. Hersey's
descriptions of people and events give the reader a feeling of actually being
at the scene. He intensifies each character's need to survive. The sense of
survival is deeply rooted in the hearts of most people.
One of the survivors ("hibakusha" as they were known), Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura,
is described as "…a tailor's widow, [who] stood by the window of her kitchen,
watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an
air-raid-defense fire lane"(1). I was very impressed by Mrs. Nakamura and
her determination to survive and to help her children survive. After the
bomb exploded she found herself being thrown into the next room and buried
under debris; but the cries of her youngest child Myeko made her break free
to rescue her children. After struggling through debris and making a path,
she found all three of her children and took them outside. However, they had
nothing on but underwear. Even though it was summer she feared that the
children might catch cold. She went back into the house and retrieved
clothing and, oddly enough, overcoats. She also found her only means of
income, a sewing machine, which she threw into a water tank. Mrs. Nakamura's
sense of survival saved her life and the lives of her three children. Even
though her rationality was blurred at times, such as getting overcoats for
the children in the middle of summer and throwing her sewing machine into the
water tank, her desire to survive pushed her beyond her limits.
In comparison, the "Testimony of Toshiko Saeki" tells of a young woman's
struggle to find her family after the bomb was dropped. The woman's name is
Toshiko Saeki who, at the time of the bombing, was with her children at her
parents' home which was far away from Hiroshima. She saw a flash of light
then felt heat surrounding her body. She then heard a loud noise and saw
windows and doors being blown away into the air. When she realized what had
happened her first instinct was to go to Hiroshima to find the rest of her
family. On her way she saw a naked man holding a piece of iron over his
head. She was embarrassed and turned her back on him. "The man was passing
by me, thn, I don't know why, But I ran after him and I asked him to stop for
a moment. I asked him, "Which part of Hiroshima was attacked?" Then the man
put down the piece of iron and he started at me. He said, "You're Toshiko,
aren't you?" He said, "Toshiko!""(Saeki 1). Toshiko couldn't tell who he
was until he said, "It's me! It's me, Toshiko! You can't tell?"(Saeki 1).
She then realized it was one of her brothers, the second eldest. Toshiko
searched for her mother from August 6th through August 15th, only missing a
few days because of air-raid warnings. She could not find her. However, her
brother found her mother's burned body and brought it home wrapped in a cloth.
The courage and determination of both Mrs. Nakamura and Ms. Saeki are true
examples of survival.
Hersey, John. Hiroshima. New ed. 1985. New York: Vintage Books, 1989
Saeki, Toshiko. "Testimony of Toshiko Saeki." November 1998
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Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Hibakusha, John Hersey
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