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 <http://www.stud.ntnu.no/~gef/hibakusha/toshiko.html> Category: Miscellaneous