Hiroshima by John Hersey Book Review


According to HISTORY, approximately 80,000 people are killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 are injured. The events that took place during World War II, like the bombing of Hiroshima, were eye-opening to the world. They were critical to the development of human rights laws, especially ones pertaining to the right to life. In John Hersey’s novel, Hiroshima, readers see the importance, and need for protection, of the right to life through the traumatic experiences of innocent civilians.

When people think about the right to life, it seems like a basic black and white concept but when the bombing of Hiroshima occurred it wasn’t that simple. Historians think that the bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in order to quickly end the war with Japan and save American lives (HISTORY). This decision was made in the best interest for America, but the Japanese suffered greatly because their government failed to protect its citizens. In the novel Hiroshima, John Hersey depicts the anger of the citizens of Hiroshima. The citizens are originally angry at President Truman, but as the novel continues they become angered at their own government for putting them in that situation and not providing help with the aftermath.

After World War II, many people began to realize the importance if the right to life because they saw what can happen when that is not basic human right. “After the August 9 Nagasaki raid (which he had no apparent foreknowledge of), he would put a stop to further bombing, telling his cabinet that ‘the thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was too horrible,” (The Bulletin). This quote shows that President Truman had no intentions of harming that many people, and once he realized what he had done he wanted to prevent it from ever happening again. This could have possibly been one of the driving forces for explicitly creating the right to life. In the novel, after the people of Hiroshima began to resurrect their city began creating anti-nuclear weapons and peace groups. The intentions of these groups were to hopefully show the world the effects of nuclear weapons and to prevent them from ever being used again.

Protection of the right to life was another issue that was brought up after World War II. Everyone is entitled to the protection of the right to life without distinction or discrimination of any kind, and all persons shall be guaranteed equal and effective access to remedies for the violation of this right, (Office of the High Commissioner). This quote is basically saying that everyone has the right to life, and that the government is responsible for ensuring that your right isn’t infringed upon, without any type of discrimination. The Office of the High Commissioner also states, Principle 4 sets forth the obligation of Governments to guarantee effective protection through judicial or other means to individuals and groups who are in danger of extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions, including those who receive death threats. This means that it is the government’s responsibility to protect your right in any situation.

Needless to say, the bombing of Hiroshima was eye-opening to the world. Without the injustice that took place in World War II, the right to life and its protection would not be a universal guarantee. John Hersey’s novel, Hiroshima, does an outstanding job of portraying the need for the right to life, and its protection, through the experiences of many survivors.

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