Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon
History Of Hiroshima
Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon History Oh Hiroshima1 is written to show Keiji Nakazawa’s own ideas on peace and how the world needs to live peacefully together. The story is about Keiji’s alter ego Gen’s life before the atomic bomb was dropped on his hometown of Hiroshima. Gen and his family are poor civilians living in Hiroshima who are under the constant burden of the town officials, the citizens of the town, and the hunger that plagues all of them. When Gen’s father is accused of being a traitor to the Japanese government life for them gets even tougher. When the bomb drops at the end of the story all that are left is Gen, his mother, and his newly born baby sister. Gen has to face the harsh realities of war at a very young age and has to become the man his father wanted him to be. Barefoot Gen is written as a first hand account about what civilian life was like for the people of japan during World War II. Also there are many themes in this book including power, and loyalty. Each one is shown by either the Japanese Government or by Gens own family. Also symbolism plays a big part in this story like the name Keiji picked for himself, the wheat that Gen and his family grow, and the sun that appears in the book many times.
When people study war and in this case World War II they always look at the battles and the military. They never really look at what happens to the everyday citizens on both the Axis and Allies side. Barefoot Gen is a good example of a first hand account of a normal citizens life during World War II. Gen is a young boy in this book and his family is on the poorer end of society during this time. The Japanese army is very large and is taking away all of the metal, wool, and food from their own citizens. This makes life very tough for the Nakaoka family. This is shown by Gen telling his brother, “Wow soldiers’re lucky, they get to eat rice. I wanna grow up quick and be a soldier too! All we get everyday is watery gruel…”2 During the whole story the family is barely making it by which shows especially in Gen’s younger brother Shinji when he is being told that they are not getting food for the night. Another thing that makes it even tougher for Gen’s family to get by is when his father is accused of being a traitor.3 The whole town turns on them and it makes it hard for the family to get food and sell the goods that they make. This shows especially when Gen’s mother goes to town to buy rice for her family. The shop keeper’s wife is obliged to help but her husband is not, saying, “ They’re traitors. The neighborhood chairman said not to deal with them. B-but… Fool! If we have anything to do with them, the whole town will turn against us too.”4 The shopkeeper does not want to deal with Gen’s mother because if he does so the entire town will not want to buy from him, making it tougher for him to make it by. To see war through the eyes of a civilian especially in this books shows the reader that if times are tough out of war, times can be really tough if your country is in war.
Barefoot Gen has a couple different themes in it that show up many times in the story. The first big theme in the story is power. In the book there are many instances and people that show power. First off is Gen’s father’s power he shows over the family. He shows this power by telling them what they need to do or even by beating his children for doing something wrong. An example of this is when Gen’s brother flees the countryside and comes back home where he is greeted by a beating from his father and is told that he has to go back so he does not get hurt.5 Another show of power is the Japanese officials and police officers. They walk around the town thinking they are higher than everybody else and making them know it. A great example of this is when Gen’s family is picking up some sweet potatoes that they traded some goods for. A police officer...
Bibliography: Nakazawa, Keiji. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story Of Hiroshima. San Francisco: Last Gasp, 2004.
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