Their stories all start with a single flash of light. John Hersey’s Hiroshima ignites rapidly as the citizen’s lives change instantly from the atomic bomb dropped by the Americans. Set during and immediately after the incident, Hersey follows the lives of six people who were affected by the bomb. This piece of literature is written both with artistic beauty and journalistic truth. Hiroshima is a timeless work that must be read by all.
Hersey’s credits alone have had readers picking up the book for decades. After graduating from Yale, Hersey went on to report for Time Magazine during the second world war. The skills gained as a journalist were unmistakably utilized when these character’s stories are told. During this time, Hersey wrote a book that gained him a Pulitzer Prize.
With the never-ending amount of acclimation that Hersey received, one could still find a reason to dislike his work. This story takes the reader on a real journey through the events of Hiroshima, almost to the point of a history textbook. Someone looking for more of a plot twisting, character love story, might find his work dull at times when his writing becomes more historic in nature. At the same time, it’s his concise journalistic style that keeps people reading through the short five-chapter book.
The fact that this story centers around such a large real life tragedy might drive readers away as well. The events that followed the atomic bomb are atrocious to say the absolute least. Hiroshima focuses on the people during that time, not the event itself. Mass destruction, death, injury, and hysteria are all covered in Hiroshima during the book. For this reason, the American government actually criticized Hersey for creating a story that may sympathize with the Japanese. When a government is speaking out again literature, it’s a sure sign that its controversial nature may enlighten readers to horrific truths.
If you chose to put aside these minor issues, the beauty comes to focus. The lives of the six characters capture something so real and so honest that Hersey pulls forth human compassion from every reader’s soul. These people’s lives weren’t just changed from the bomb; their lives were destroyed. Thousands of people were instantly killed by the bomb in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the real horror is what happened to the people unfortunate enough to survive. There is no coincidence that the longest chapter is the last chapter titled AFTERMATH. Hersey captures the human element with ease by personalizing the event, while remaining somewhat neutral.
His journalistic style drives the story, but his artistic embellishments and intriguing themes keep the reader hooked. Hersey pens a number of sentences that make the reader contemplate certain moral issues. One sentence, in particular, comes to mind. “There, in the tin factory, in the first moment of the atomic age, a human being was crushed by books,” pens Hersey. After reading this phrase, I sat in silence as I thought of how I could possibly interpret the meaning behind his words. This shows that while he stays honest to his reporting style, he doesn’t forget to continue creating art with his words.
To sum it up, Hiroshima is the epitome of artistic literature that brings a tragedy to light. This event, in particular, is a gray area for Americans. Reading this book would not only give a good perspective on lives destroyed by war, but it gives readers the opportunity to react in a new way. There’s no question why New York University’s School of Journalism listed this book as the number one book of the 20th century. Hiroshima is a book that should be picked up by all faster than the speed of light.