Hiroshima traces the experiences of six people who survived the atomic blast of August 6, 1945 at 8:15 am.
The six people vary in age, education, financial status and employment. Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a personnel clerk; Dr. Masakazu Fuji, a physician; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor’s widow with three small children; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German missionary priest; Dr.
Terufumi Sasaki, and the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto are the six Hersey chose from dozens of people he interviewed.
The book opens with what each person was doing moments before the blast and follows their next few hours, continuing through the next several days and then ending with their situation a year later. In the opening chapter, “A Noiseless Flash” he gives short scenarios of what each was doing moments before the blast and immediately after. At one point during the blast Dr.
Sasaki says “Sasaki gambare!” which means be brave in English. The second chapter, “The Fire,” picks up with each victim as they begin to realize their surroundings. All face a different sort of horror as they realize their lives have been spared yet the world as they knew it is gone. A quote by Miss Sasaki kind of sums up with this chapter is all about “I am lying here and I can’t move.
My left leg is cut off.” “Details Are Being Investigated” is the title of the third chapter and as the title suggests, the people of Hiroshima are being bombarded with rumors about the bomb and eagerly await any official word. Information is scarce and the phrase “details are being investigated” is repeated throughout the city over word of mouth and other ways of communication. This chapter is the longest and talks about what is happening to the six as the day passes into night.
At first I was confused by the title of the fourth chapter: “Panic Grass and Feverfew.” But I later realized it was talking about the effect the bomb had on the growth of the wild flowers and plants around Hiroshima. Two of these plants that grew a lot around the ruins of the city were panic grass and Feverfew. This chapter also traces the effect of the nuclear radiation on the residents.
Four of the six suffer from radiation sickness in varying degrees. Hersey concludes the chapter with a report of where each victim is at this point in his or her life a year after the bomb had fallen. The fifth chapter called the Aftermath, Hersey returns to interview the six survivors and see how their lives have been altered by the blast and what they are now doing.