Literary Documentation of the Cold War in John Hersey's Hiroshima

Pages: 4 (1607 words) Published: December 6, 2008
Taking account of both the extraordinary event chronicled and the very interesting role the author chooses to play as narrator of this story, I have chosen to use John Hersey's Hiroshima as my primary example of documentation in the Cold War era. Hersey chose to take personal stories as his subject matter, using a very balanced but essentially human narration. As the definitive account of the horrors suffered by victims of the atomic bomb, Hiroshima maintains its journalistic essence throughout, despite dealing with a highly politicised and emotive subject. The only sense you have of John Hersey as anything more than a scribe are the occasional glimpses provided by his vocabulary and a slight variance in tone, just short of what you might expect from a completely objective standpoint. Hersey's narration is also important in the context of 1946 (the year of its publication), and on this basis the fifth and final chapter, written and added in 1985, must also be seen in its specific lateral context.

As Hiroshima is based on interviews with actual survivors of the atom bomb attack, and was originally published as an article, it should viewed as a journalistic exercise rather than as a 'book' as such. However, the process of translation and editing allows Hersey some leeway to report the story in as vivid a way as possible, perhaps more so than originally told to him. He describes in gruesome detail some of the horrible images, e.g. "the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks" (p.51). This graphic style of narrative is used for good reason by Hersey, whose mission was to provide human faces to the atrocity,as he had to work hard replacing the overwhelming anonymity of statistics and numbers that most outside of the target cities had associated with the attack.

In contrast to earlier reports and stories, which were mostly concerned with the dramatic scale of destruction and historic nature of the event, the documentation that Hersey sought to...

Bibliography: Hiroshima, John Hersey, 1946
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