Study Guide

Hiroshima Foreignness

By John Hersey

Foreignness

Culture clash is a big deal in Hiroshima—after all, if there's a better example of two cultures at odds than war, we don't really want to see it. Wartime Japan was pretty much rife with suspicion and xenophobia. Even Father Kleinsorge—who, as a German, was associated with Japan's allies—was viewed with suspicion.

Mr. Tanimoto got the stink eye from one of his neighbors just because he spoke English and had been to school in the U.S. By drawing attention to this tension surrounding foreignness in Japan, Hersey taps into the kinds of misunderstanding, fear, and hatred that have everything to do with war itself.

Questions About Foreignness

  1. Why does Hersey draw so much attention to xenophobia and anti-foreign sentiment?
  2. Do you find it strange that people like Dr. Fuji and Mr. Tanimoto are so pro-American, even after the atomic bomb? Is Hersey critical of that tendency? What about the fact that Father Kleinsorge wants to be Japanese?
  3. What do you make of how the tensions between Japan and the U.S. are portrayed? Is Hersey critical of either side?
  4. What do you make of Mr. Tanimoto's experiences in the States? What do we learn about relations between the U.S. and Japan as a result?

Chew on This

Hersey portrays the Americans' treatment of the Japanese post-bomb in a very bad light; far from righting things, it just perpetuated misunderstanding and stereotypes.

Hersey's narrative treats the subjects' efforts to assimilate into other cultures differently; in his account, mimicking American styles is portrayed as problematic (e.g., in the case of Dr. Fujii), whereas father Kleinsorge's desire to become Japanese is celebrated.

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