Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

by

Eleanor Coerr

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Sadako Character Analysis

The novel’s protagonist, Sadako Sasaki is a spirited and ambitious eleven-year-old girl with a passion for running free. Sadako was only a year old when the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima nine years previously (at the end of World War II), but swears she remembers the heat and light of the blast as clearly as if it were yesterday. Sadako’s enthusiasm for celebrating life is sometimes mistaken by her mother and father as disrespect for the past. She longs to join the racing team at her junior high school next year, though as she begins running small races against her friends at school, she finds herself growing dizzy and faint rather quickly. Sadako is soon brought to the hospital where she is diagnosed with leukemia, an effect of the radiation from the nuclear bomb that still lingers throughout Hiroshima. As Sadako struggles in the hospital, her friend Chizuko instructs her in the art of folding paper cranes, and Chizuko gives Sadako hope with by telling her the legend that anyone who folds one thousand cranes is granted their wish—Sadako’s, of course, is to be healthy again and return home to her family. As Sadako’s illness worsens, she is comforted by her family, her friends, and others in the hospital—a boy named Kenji, whose passing shows her the freedom death can offer for those who are truly ill, and her kind caretaker Nurse Yasunaga. Though Sadako eventually perishes, she comes to accept the freedom death represents, and her illness—the casualty of a tremendous act of violence—becomes a rallying call for her community as they finish folding one thousand paper cranes in the name of peace, unity, and kindness on Sadako’s behalf.

Sadako Quotes in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

The Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes quotes below are all either spoken by Sadako or refer to Sadako. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Peace and Pacifism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Puffin Books edition of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes published in 2004.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Sadako was born to be a runner. Her mother always said that Sadako had learned to run before she could walk. One morning in August 1954 Sadako ran outside into the street as soon as she was dressed. The morning sun of Japan touched brown highlights in her dark hair. There was not a speck of cloud in the blue sky. It was a good sign. Sadako was always on the lookout for good luck signs.

Related Characters: Sadako
Page Number: 9-10
Explanation and Analysis:

Rushing like a whirlwind into the kitchen, Sadako cried, “Oh, Mother! I can hardly wait to go to the carnival. Can we please hurry with breakfast?”

Her mother was busily slicing pickled radishes to serve with the rice and soup. She looked sternly at Sadako. “You are eleven years old and should know better,” she scolded. You must not call it a carnival. Every year on August sixth we remember those who died when the atom bomb was dropped on our city. It is a memorial day.”

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Mrs. Sasaki (speaker)
Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:

Sadako bowed her head. She fidgeted and wriggled her bare toes while Mr. Sasaki spoke. He prayed that the spirits of their ancestors were happy and peaceful. He gave thanks for his barbershop [and] for his fine children. He prayed that his family would be protected from the atom bomb disease called leukemia. Many still died from the disease, even though the atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima nine years before. It had filled the air with radiation—a kind of poison—that stayed inside people for a long time.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Mr. Sasaki (speaker)
Page Number: 11-13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

At the entrance to the Peace Park people filed through the memorial building in silence. On the walls were photographs of the dead and dying in a ruined city. The atom bomb—the Thunderbolt—had turned Hiroshima into a desert. Sadako didn’t want to look at the frightening pictures. She held tight to Chizuko’s hand and walked quickly through the building.

“I remember the Thunderbolt,” Sadako whispered to her friend. “There was the flash of a million suns. Then the heat prickled my eyes like needles.”

“How can you possibly remember anything?” Chizuko exclaimed. “You were only a baby then.”

“Well, I do!” Sadako said stubbornly.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Chizuko (speaker)
Page Number: 16-18
Explanation and Analysis:

When the ceremonies were over, Sadako led the others straight to the old lady who sold cotton candy. It tasted even better than last year. The day passed too quickly, as it always did. The best part, Sadako thought, was looking at all the things to buy and smelling the good food. The worst part was seeing people with ugly whitish scars. The atom bomb had burned them so badly that they no longer looked human. If any of the bomb victims came near Sadako, she turned away quickly.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker)
Page Number: 18-20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

It was the beginning of autumn when Sadako rushed home with the good news. She kicked off her shoes and threw open the door with a bang. “I’m home!” she called.

Her mother was fixing supper in the kitchen.

“The most wonderful thing has happened! Guess what!”

“Many wonderful things happen to you, Sadako. I can’t even guess.”

“The big race on Field Day!” Sadako said. “I’ve been chosen from the bamboo class to be on the relay team.” She danced around the room, swinging her school bag. “Just think. If we win, I’ll be sure to get on the team in junior high school next year.” That was what Sadako wanted more than anything else.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Mrs. Sasaki (speaker)
Page Number: 21-22
Explanation and Analysis:

At the signal to start, Sadako forgot everything but the race. When it was her turn, she ran with all the strength she had. Sadako’s heart was still thumping painfully against her ribs when the race was over. It was then that she first felt strange and dizzy. She scarcely heard someone cry, “Your team won!” The class surrounded Sadako, cheering and shouting. She shook her head a few times and the dizziness went away.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

By now the rest of Sadako’s family was at the hospital. Her parents were in the doctor’s office. Sadako could hear the murmur of their voices. Once her mother cried, “Leukemia! But that’s impossible!” At the sound of that frightening word Sadako put her hands over her ears. She didn’t want to hear anymore. Of course she didn’t have leukemia. Why, the atom bomb hadn’t even scratched her.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Mrs. Sasaki (speaker)
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

That afternoon Chizuko was Sadako’s first visitor. She smiled mysteriously as she held something behind her back. “Shut your eyes,” she said. While Sadako squinted her eyes shut, Chizuko put some pieces of paper and scissors on the bed. “Now you can look,” she said.

“What is it?” Sadako asked.

Chizuko was pleased with herself. “I’ve figured out a way for you to get well,” she said proudly. “Watch!” She cut a piece of gold paper into a large square. In a short time she had folded it over and over into a beautiful crane.

Sadako was puzzled. “How can that paper bird make me well?”

“Don’t you remember that old story about the crane?” Chizuko asked. “It’s supposed to live for a thousand years. If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.” She handed the crane to Sadako. “Here’s your first one.”

Sadako’s eyes filled with tears. Sadako took the golden crane and made a wish. The funniest little feeling came over her when she touched the bird. It must be a good omen.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Chizuko (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 34-36
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Everyone saved paper for Sadako’s good luck cranes. Chizuko brought colored paper from class. Father saved every scrap from the barbershop. Even Nurse Yasunaga gave Sadako the wrappings from packages of medicine. And Masahiro hung every one of the birds, as he had promised.

Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

Sadako was feeling especially tired one day when Nurse Yasunaga wheeled her out onto the porch for some sunshine. There Sadako saw Kenji for the first time. He was nine and small for his age.

“Hello!” she said. “I’m Sadako.”

Kenji answered in a low, soft voice. Soon the two were talking like old friends Kenji had been in the hospital for a long time, but he had few visitors. His parents were dead and he had been living with an aunt in a nearby town.

“She’s so old that she only comes to see me only once a week,” Kenji said. “I read most of the time.”

Sadako turned away at the sad look on Kenji’s face.

“It doesn’t really matter,” he went on, “because I’ll die soon. I have leukemia from the bomb.”

“You can’t have leukemia,” Sadako said. “You weren’t even born then.”

“That isn’t important,” Kenji said. “The poison was in my mother’s body and I got it from her.”

Sadako wanted to comfort him, but she didn’t know what to say. Then she remembered the cranes. “You can make paper cranes like I do,” she said, “so that a miracle can happen.”

“I know about the cranes, but it’s too late. Even the gods can’t help me now.”

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Kenji (speaker), Nurse Yasunaga
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 42-44
Explanation and Analysis:

One day Kenji didn’t appear on the porch. Late that night Sadako heard the rumble of a bed being rolled down the hall. Nurse Yasunaga came in to tell her that Kenji had died. Sadako turned to the wall and let the tears come. After a while she felt the nurse’s hand on her shoulder. When Sadako finally stopped sobbing, she looked out [the window] at the moonlit sky.

“Do you think Kenji is up there on a star island?”

“Wherever he is, I’m sure that he is happy now,” the nurse said. “He has shed that tired, sick body and his spirit is free.”

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Nurse Yasunaga (speaker), Kenji
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Mrs. Sasaki was worried Sadako didn’t eat enough. One evening she brought a surprise wrapped in a bundle. It contained all of Sadako’s favorite foods—an egg roll, chicken and rice, pickled plums, and bean cakes. Sadako propped herself up and tried to eat. But it was no use. Her swollen gums hurt so much that she couldn’t chew. Finally, Sadako pushed the good things away. Her mother’s eyes were bright as if she were going to cry.

“I’m such a turtle!” Sadako burst out. She was angry with herself for making her mother sad. She also knew that the Sasaki family had no extra money for expensive food. Tear stung Sadako’s eyes and she quickly brushed them away.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Mrs. Sasaki
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:

Masahiro dug into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of silver paper. “Here,” he said, giving it to [Sadako.] “Eiji said this is for another crane.” Sadako sniffed the paper. “It smells like candy,” she said. “I hope the gods like chocolate.”

[Sadako, Masahiro, and their mother] burst out laughing. It was the first time Sadako had laughed in days. It was a good sign. Perhaps the golden crane’s magic was beginning to work. She smoothed out the paper and folded a bird.

Five hundred and forty one…

But she was too tired to make more. Sadako stretched out on the bed and closed her eyes. As Mrs. Sasaki tiptoed out of the room, she whispered a poem she used to say when Sadako was little:
“O flock of heavenly cranes

Cover my child with your wings.”

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Masahiro (speaker), Mrs. Sasaki (speaker), Eiji
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

Near the end of July it was warm and sunny. Sadako seemed to be getting better. “I’m over halfway to one thousand cranes,” she told Masahiro, “so something good is going to happen.” And it did. Her appetite came back and much of the pain went away. Dr. Numata was pleased with her progress and told Sadako she could go home for a visit. That night Sadako was so excited she couldn’t sleep. To keep the magic working she made more cranes.

Six hundred and twenty one.

Six hundred and twenty two…

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Dr. Numata
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 52-53
Explanation and Analysis:

By the end of a week [at home] Sadako was pale and tired again. She could only sit quietly and watch the others.

“Sadako certainly has good manners now,” Mr. Sasaki said. “Oba chan’s spirit must be pleased to see how ladylike her granddaughter has become.”

“How can you say that!” Mrs. Sasaki cried. “I would rather have our lively Sadako back.” She dabbed at her eyes and hurried into the kitchen.

I'm making everyone sad, Sadako thought. She wished she could suddenly turn into her old self. How happy her mother would be then!

As if he knew what was in Sadako's mind, her father said gruffly, "There now, don't worry. After a good night's rest you'll feel fine."

Related Characters: Mrs. Sasaki (speaker), Mr. Sasaki (speaker), Sadako
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Dr. Numata gave Sadako blood transfusions or shots almost every day. “I know it hurts,” he said, “but we must keep on trying.” Sadako nodded. She never complained about the shots and almost constant pain. A bigger pain was growing deep inside her. It was the fear of dying. She had to fight it as well as the disease. The golden crane helped. It reminded Sadako that there was always hope.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Dr. Numata (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

The leaves on the maple tree were turning rust and gold when the family came for one last visit. Eiji handed Sadako a big box wrapped in gold paper and tied with a red ribbon. Slowly Sadako opened it. Inside was something her mother had always wanted for her—a silk kimono with cherry blossoms on it. Sadako felt hot tears blur her eyes.

"Why did you do it?" she asked, touching the soft cloth. "I'll never be able to wear it and silk costs so much money."

"Sadako chan," her father said gently, "your mother stayed up late last night to finish sewing it. Try it on for her."

With a great effort Sadako lifted herself out of bed. Mrs. Sasaki helped her put on the kimono and tie the sash. Sadako was glad her swollen legs didn't show.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker), Mr. Sasaki (speaker), Eiji, Mrs. Sasaki
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

As Sadako grew weaker, she thought more about death. Would she live on a heavenly mountain? Did it hurt to die? Or was it like falling asleep?

If only I could forget about it, Sadako thought. But it was like trying to stop the rain from falling. As soon as she concentrated on something else, death crept back into her mind.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker)
Page Number: 60-61
Explanation and Analysis:

Already lights were dancing behind her eyes. Sadako slid a thin, trembling hand over to touch the golden crane. Life was slipping away from her, but the crane made Sadako feel stronger inside.

She looked at her flock hanging from the ceiling. As she watched, a light autumn breeze made the birds rustle and sway. They seemed to be alive and flying out through the open window.

How beautiful and free they were! Sadako sighed and closed her eyes.

She never woke up.

Related Characters: Sadako (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paper Cranes
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Sadako LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes PDF

Sadako Character Timeline in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

The timeline below shows where the character Sadako appears in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
Peace and Pacifism Theme Icon
History, Family, and Tradition Theme Icon
Hope, Strength, and Perseverance Theme Icon
...of a real little girl who lived in Japan from 1943 to 1955. The real-life Sadako was in Hiroshima in 1945 when the United States Air Force dropped an atomic bomb... (full context)
Chapter 1: Good Luck Signs
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The young girl named Sadako Sasaki was born to be a runner, and, according to her mother, learned to run... (full context)
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History, Family, and Tradition Theme Icon
Sadako runs back inside and wakes her siblings. She pokes her older brother Masahiro and excitedly... (full context)
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Sadako runs into the kitchen, calling to her mother about how excited she is to “go... (full context)
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Sadako gulps down her breakfast, thinking of last year’s Peace Day and dreaming of what this... (full context)
Chapter 2: Peace Day
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As Sadako and her family start out for the festival, the air outside is warm and the... (full context)
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...aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima—pictures of dead bodies and ruined buildings line the walls. Sadako looks away from the pictures and holds Chizuko’s hand tightly. Sadako tells Chizuko that she... (full context)
Peace and Pacifism Theme Icon
History, Family, and Tradition Theme Icon
...of white doves are released from their cages to commemorate the dead. After the ceremony, Sadako runs straight to the cotton candy stand, and finds that the sweet treat tastes even... (full context)
Peace and Pacifism Theme Icon
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...family suffered when the atom bomb dropped. That night, after the family returns home and Sadako goes to bed, she lies awake for a very long time, thinking about the day,... (full context)
Chapter 3: Sadako’s Secret
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It is early autumn, and Sadako rushes home from school one afternoon with good news. She runs into the kitchen to... (full context)
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Finally, it is the day of the big race. Sadako is nervous and afraid her legs won’t work at all as she surveys the parents,... (full context)
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Sadako runs the race, and after she crosses the finish line her heart is still thumping.... (full context)
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On New Year’s Eve, Sadako hopes that in the New Year her dizzy spells will go away. On New Year’s... (full context)
Chapter 4: A Secret No Longer
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For the first few weeks of the new year, Sadako feels strong and healthy. One cold February day, though, as Sadako practices in the schoolyard,... (full context)
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Mr. Sasaki leaves work and takes Sadako to the Red Cross Hospital. As they enter the building, Sadako is full of fear—there... (full context)
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A nurse named Nurse Yasunaga takes Sadako to a private hospital room and gives her a cotton hospital gown to wear. Sadako... (full context)
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Sadako’s parents fluff her pillows and offer to bring her anything she needs, but all she... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Golden Crane
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On her first morning in the hospital, Sadako wakes up slowly. She expects to be at home, and slowly remembers that she is... (full context)
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Sadako’s first visitor that afternoon is Chizuko. She approaches Sadako’s bed and tells Sadako to shut... (full context)
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Sadako’s eyes fill with tears—she is grateful to her friend for bringing her a good luck... (full context)
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That evening, when Masahiro brings Sadako her homework from school, he offers to string the cranes from the ceiling so that... (full context)
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...and Eiji in tow. The two young children like Chizuko’s golden crane the best, but Sadako’s mother picks one folded from green paper out as her favorite—she knows that the smallest... (full context)
Chapter 6: Kenji
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All of Sadako’s friends and family start saving paper for her to use to make the good luck... (full context)
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Death as Freedom Theme Icon
As the leukemia begins to sap Sadako’s energy, she experiences throbbing headaches, pain in her bones and her joints, and suffers more... (full context)
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Sadako tells Kenji that he can’t possibly have leukemia—he wasn’t even born when the atom bomb... (full context)
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Back in her room, Sadako tries to imagine what it would be like to be sick and have no family.... (full context)
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Late one night, Nurse Yasunaga comes into Sadako’s room to inform her that Kenji has died. Sadako cries, but Nurse Yasunaga comforts Sadako... (full context)
Chapter 7: Hundreds of Wishes
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June comes, and so does the rainy season. As the room grows humid and musty, Sadako becomes pale and listless. Only her parents and Masahiro are allowed to visit her, though... (full context)
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Masahiro arrives and regales Sadako with stories from school. He presents her with a present from Eiji—a crumpled piece of... (full context)
Chapter 8: Last Days
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By the end of July the weather has turned warm and sunny, and Sadako is feeling a little bit better. She is halfway to one thousand cranes, and she... (full context)
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When Sadako arrives home it is time for O Bon, the biggest holiday of the year—a celebration... (full context)
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...friends and family come and go from the Sasaki house all the time, calling on Sadako. By the end of the week she is pale and tired again, and when Mr.... (full context)
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The next day, Sadako returns to the hospital, and finds herself strangely glad to be back in her quiet... (full context)
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From that day on Sadako receives numerous transfusions and shots every single day. Sadako does not complain about the pain... (full context)
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Sadako’s mother spends more and more time at the hospital, and it hurts Sadako to see... (full context)
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Sadako’s parents help her try on the kimono, and as she takes small steps around her... (full context)
Chapter 9: Racing With The Wind
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Sadako grows weaker and weaker, and thinks more and more often about death. She wonders if... (full context)
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Toward the middle of October, Sadako begins having trouble keeping track of the days and nights. One day she awakes to... (full context)
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When Sadako wakes up again, her family is gathered all around her. She smiles at them, and... (full context)
Epilogue
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After Sadako’s death in October of 1955, her classmates at school folded the remaining 356 cranes needed... (full context)