Study Guide

Hiroshima Suffering

By John Hersey

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Consider yourself warned: while the book isn't super graphic or sensationalistic, Hersey goes into a great deal of detail about the aftermath of the bombing, including the illnesses, injuries, and physical destruction that were basically everywhere and affecting everyone. This is the opposite of pretty.

Reading this stuff isn't for the faint of heart, as the six subjects (and their families) often suffered on multiple levels. For example, Mrs. Nakamura's health, livelihood, home, and children all suffered immensely (and in the case of her health, permanently) from the bombing. Hersey keeps the tone journalistic and all, but his simple, straightforward descriptions of incredible horrors bring home the suffering that survivors endured in a crystal-clear way.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What is your reaction to the way Hersey portrays suffering in the book—is it over the top? Tasteful?
  2. What effect does the book's portrayal of suffering have on your understanding of events/people?
  3. How do the different subjects' attitudes differ with respect to suffering?

Chew on This

In keeping with Hersey's journalistic style, he portrays the suffering of individuals in a very non-sensational way; any emotions infused come from the subjects' memories themselves, as the documenting of actual events is sensational enough.

We understand the fortitude of the "characters" through how they deal with suffering.

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