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Pat Swenson, CSUN - Hiroshima
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Prof Pat Swenson

Campus Email: pat.swenson@csun.edu

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Hiroshima by John Hersey - Discussion Guide


The Victims

Think about the psychological, spiritual, and physical effects the bombing had on its victims. Please include your own opinions on the subject of war and suffering.

Briefly describe each of the six victims depicted in the novel.

How did each react to the events following the bombing?

How did each live their lives as hibakusha (explosion-affected persons)?

Shame & Honor

Explain the concepts of shame and honor in Japanese culture.

Why were some ashamed for NOT being injured?

Why were some ashamed of suffering in public?

Shikata ga-nai

Explain the concept "Shikata ga-nai" - It can't be helped.

How does this relate at all to a belief in Buddhism?

The Bombing

Explain the emotional effects of the bombing.

Did the bombing break the people's spirits?

How did it affect the religious beliefs of the hibakusha?

Suffering and Compassion

How and why did some of the hibakusha turn away from their own suffering to compassion and service to others?

Avoidance of Politics

Why did some victims of the bombing (the Nakamura) avoid any anti-bomb, anti-nuclear involvement?

Is this avoidance related to the concepts of shame and honor?

Medical Concerns

Why did some of the victims avoid medical attention, even though it was made available to them by the government for no cost?

Why did it take so long (1957) for the Japanese government to implement medical services to the hibakusha?

How did this late reaction have to do with shame or loss of honor?

The Hibakusha's feelings toward America

Do the Japanese people blame America and the Allied Forces for the bombing?

Do the Japanese hold their own emperor accountable?

Hersey's Anti-War Statement

How does Hersey make an anti-war statement without making an explicit anti-war statement?

How do his images speak volumes of anti-war statements?

Would Hiroshima be a better book if Hersey had included a chapter from the bomb crews' point of view, or the Allies point of view? Do we need such a chapter(s)?

Is Nuclear War Justifiable?

Having read about the personal lives of the A-bomb victims, do you feel that dropping an A-bomb or Hydrogen Bomb is ever justified?

Have these victims of the A-bomb sacrificed their lives for a greater good?

Have they given up their lives in order to have a world that has been (up until now) free of nuclear war?

Are all forms of war equally evil?

Is killing the same, whether we die from a gunshot wound or an A-bomb?

Can violence ever be justified? In your analysis, think back to dictators such as Hitler. How can such men be stopped peacefully?