The bombing of Japanese cities continued. The U.S. had the intention of destroying morale. However, the Japanese are a strong spirited people. Then on August 6, 1945 came the ultimate blow to morale, the amusingly nicknamed B-29, Mr. B, dropped the first atomic bomb ever on Hiroshima. 70,000 people died instantly and over 100,000 fell victim to the effects of radiation. In Hiroshima, John Hersey introduces the reader to six people and describes their lives shortly before the bomb is dropped to sometime after. I felt most connected to Reverend Kiyoshio Tanimoto because of his selflessness, the fact that he was educated in America and his ability to think quickly under pressure, all things that I strive to emulate.
Mr. Tanimoto was a kind and humble clergyman. He was educated in America and was accused of being an American spy. He strove to prove his loyalty by helping his neighbors prepare for future bombings. Mr. Tanimoto worked relentlessly to help any and all people affected by the bomb, the fact that he could not caused pain and sorrow within him. He felt ashamed to be unhurt while everyone around him endured agonizing pain. Hersey writes, “As a Japanese he was overwhelmed by the shame of being unhurt, and he prayed as he ran, god help them and take them out of the fire” (pg. 16). Mr. Tanimoto’s energy is unmatched, for days he helps anyone he sees without stopping for rest. Hersey writes, “He had to keep consciously repeating himself, these are human beings.” (pg. 24). Mr. Tanimoto constantly repeated this because it enabled him to continue helping people despite his exhaustion.
Wired to Mr. Tanimoto’s core is a duty to help people, something that I strive to do. He gave help to those he can and comforted those that he could not. Hersey writes, “Mr. Tanimoto found about twenty men and women on the sandpit. He drove the boat onto the bank and urged them to get aboard. They did not move and he realized that they were too weak to lift themselves…Then he got out into the water and, though a small man, lifted several of the men and women into his boat…” (pg. 24). Mr. Tanimoto’s selflessness is shown when he helped the innocent but was magnified when he helped those that have done wrong by him. A notoriously cruel man, Mr. Tanaka, who accused Mr. Tanimoto of being a spy for the Americans was dying and Mr. Tanimoto went to comfort him. As Mr. Tanaka passed, Mr. Tanimoto read a psalm to him. I also try to help other people in my own way. Currently I am in a club at UB, Bridging the Gap Africa, which assists local communities in rural Kenya to build footbridges across dangerous rivers. While this pales in comparison to Mr. Tanimoto’s efforts, this selflessness is why I feel connected to Mr. Tanimoto.
Little Boy decimated most of Hiroshima, and it appears that Mr. Tanimoto remained more or less indifferent about the usage of the bomb, and that may be attributed to the fact that he was educated in America. This gave Mr. Tanimoto a broader perspective. He took into account both sides of the issue. Mr. Tanimoto was also able to think quickly under pressure, a skill which is essential for anyone. Right after the bomb dropped Mr. Tanimoto was disoriented. Despite this Mr. Tanimoto located the closest person and attempted to help. Hersey writes, “Immediately after the explosion, the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshio Tanimoto… attached himself sympathetically to an old lady who was walking along in a daze” (pg. 9). A disoriented Mr. Tanimoto was able to quickly think and act under pressure.
The book influenced my thinking regarding nuclear weapons. Before the reading I was not willing to listen to reasons in favor of the bomb. After reading the novel, Hersey gave me a new perspective. I noticed that my thinking regarding nuclear weapons evolved as the novel progressed. I used to think that the usage of the bomb was wrong simply because bombs cause mass destruction. I also thought that there will never be a time when the use of nuclear weapons can be justified or even necessary. After reading the novel I think that the atomic bomb should not have been used in the past but there may be a time when nuclear weapons may be justifiably used. For example, a region may be justifiably bombed if it consisted of only military personnel. John Hersey subtly changed the way I thought about nuclear weapons.
Hersey takes the impartial stance of a journalist throughout his novel. He does his best to write about each character without favoring one over the other. He also does not seem to take a stance on the deployment of the bomb. Throughout the novel Hersey quotes statistics regarding the number of victims but does not take the attention away from the six people. He does this to allow the reader to grow connected on a personal level, he also does this to describe the devastating power of the bomb.
The deployment of the most destructive bomb the world has ever seen will always haunt our race, that is the human race. Perhaps humanity will never reach an everlasting peace. One man, Mr. Tanimoto, does his part to disprove this. Wired to his core is a feeling of responsibility to help his neighbors, friends, family, the people of Japan. The true representation of humanity is not the devastation that we can cause each other but how we respond to such acts. Japan may have been shown the worst of human nature but the Japanese people, show their best.
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