14 March 2013
Comparing Hiroshima and Once There Was a War
John Hersey’s Hiroshima and John Steinbeck’s Once There Was a War provide compelling accounts of the horrors of World War II, even at different sides of the world and with unique writing styles. Both authors have different methods for acquiring the information, but what makes these pieces stand out from other journalistic works is their harsh realism and detail about the gruesome ways of war. With Hiroshima and Once There Was a War, the reader is able to get a glimpse of the lives of civilians in Japan and Italy as they struggle to survive the events going on in the war. Hersey and Steinbeck present the facts in a clear, objective way that sparks one’s curiosity about the lives of these individuals during World War II. The fact that Hersey and Steinbeck are so removed from their writing makes it more powerful. The most obvious similarity between these two pieces is the objective style of writing most often seen in journalism. Hersey does a better job of keeping his opinion out of the piece – however, this might be easier for him to do considering he wrote it based on a series of letters by a German Jesuit priest. On the other hand, Steinbeck occasionally throws his feelings into the story: “While the correspondent is writing for you of advances and retreats, his skin will be raw from the woolen clothes he has not taken off for three days, and his feet will be hot and dirty and swollen from not having taken of his shoes for days,” he writes with slight impudence. Granted, Steinbeck was in Italy as a foreign correspondent, so he had some more room to be expressive of his opinion. Hersey is much more matter-of-fact with his presentation of the details and describes the situations so plainly: Dr. Fujii lay in dreadful pain throughout the night on the floor of his family’s roofless house on the edge of the city. By the light of a lantern, he had examined himself and found: left...