John Hersey

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Themes and Colors
The Atomic Age, Politics, and Morality Theme Icon
Survival and Cooperation Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Trauma and Memory Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hiroshima, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Atomic Age, Politics, and Morality

In the very first sentence of Hiroshima, John Hersey conveys the shock and disorientation of the Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945. Early in the morning, Hiroshimans were going about their business, utterly unaware that the American military, fighting in World War Two against Japan, was about to drop an atomic bomb on their city. The next day, American forces dropped a second bomb on the city of Nagasaki—altogether, these bombs claimed more than…

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Survival and Cooperation

In Hiroshima, John Hersey writes about six main characters who were living in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, but were far enough from the city center that they survived the bombing. In the immediate aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing—when the city was engulfed in flames, food was scarce, and many must have thought that the world was coming to an end—these characters faced impossible decisions about how to survive and whom to help. Unlike…

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Religion is one of the most overt themes of Hiroshima. Of the book’s six central characters, two are priests (one Jesuit, one Methodist), and one later becomes a nun. Moreover, most of the characters in the book turn to religion for comfort in times of need: confronted with the mind-boggling destruction of the bombing, they use faith to answer profound questions about the meaning of the day’s destruction. Upfront, it’s important to notice that…

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Trauma and Memory

The atomic blast over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 is over in a matter of seconds. And yet the residents of Hiroshima who survived the explosion remember it in vivid detail for the rest of their lives. For most of the book, and especially in the book’s final, long chapter (which was written forty years after the bombing), John Hersey studies the way that Hiroshimans cope with the disaster—an event so vast and destructive that…

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