Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on John Hersey's Hiroshima. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Hiroshima: Plot Summary
Hiroshima: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Hiroshima: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of John Hersey
Historical Context of Hiroshima
Other Books Related to Hiroshima
- Full Title: Hiroshima
- When Written: The first chapters were written in the first half of 1946; Hersey later added additional chapters, including one written forty years after the bombing
- Where Written: New York City and the Solomon Islands (in the Pacific)
- When Published: The first portion of the book first appeared as the entirety of the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, and it later appeared as a full-length book in November 1946. In 1985, The New Yorker published another full-length Hersey piece on the aftermath of the bombing, which was later included in editions of Hiroshima.
- Literary Period: The book has been considered one of the founding texts of New Journalism, the journalistic technique of depicting nonfiction events with a narrative literary style. However, Hersey later said that he despised New Journalism, so he probably wouldn’t appreciate being remembered as its godfather!
- Genre: nonfiction
- Setting: Hiroshima, Japan, and surrounding towns
- Climax: None—the book follows characters through many stages in their lives, so that action never really “rises” or “falls”
- Antagonist: The United States, nuclear technology, or the indifferent Japanese state could all be considered antagonists
- Point of View: Third person omniscient (moving back and forth between the six main characters)
Extra Credit for Hiroshima
How to get a job by being a jerk. John Hersey was famous, and notorious, for his blunt, outspoken manner. As a young man, he wrote a long article on how horrible Time magazine’s journalism had become. Time’s editors read the article—and promptly hired Hersey to make the magazine better!
The sincerest form of flattery. John Hersey was a highly-respected journalist, but he had his share of detractors. In 1988, he gained some new enemies after he was found to have plagiarized large chunks of Laurence Bergreen’s biography of the writer James Agee for his own article on Agee in The New Yorker. Hersey was reportedly humiliated by the discovery, and he publicly apologized to Bergreen. But later, a reader discovered that Hersey had plagiarized other articles, too!