The fact that the bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945 was an incredible crime against humanity is now a well-acknowledged fact. The theme of this historical tragedy was addressed in the unique accounts of the bombing, which were written by Berger, Hardy, and Hersey. These three essays clearly demonstrate how the narration pattern, stylistic devices, and the rhetorical triangle (ethos, logos, and pathos) can make a difference in an essay, strongly impressing the readers, like in Berger’s work or providing objective reports, like in Hersey’s essay.
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The essays by Berger, Hardy, and Hersey address the same theme of Hiroshima bombing and clearly demonstrate how the manner of presentation, arguments, and style characteristics can affect the readers’ perception. The authors chose different approaches to support the same assumption that the atomic bombing was a tragedy that should never happen again. For example, Berger argued that it is incredibly important not only to reinsert the events of Hiroshima into the textbooks but also to explain to children the entire meaning of these shocking events and the monstrous crime committed by those who had planned them. Hardy reflected mainly on the events preceding the bombing and described the bombing only in the form of an excerpt from a radio report, expressing different opinions of Americans, justifying or not justifying the bombing. Hersey reported on the destiny of one of the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and provided only a brief account of the bombing and much more details of its aftermath. Berger and Hardy used first-person narration that strengthened their argumentation.
Hersey, who discussed the life of the actual witness of events, used the third-person narration that made the essay unemotional and least persuasive. Berger intentionally refused to give the statistics (Berger 273). Still, the lack of statistical data in Berger’s essay did not reduce the persuasiveness of his work. Hardy and Hersey gave much more attention to detail and included a number of figures into their essays to support the assumptions. Some of these details are not important for supporting the main ideas but still contribute to the development of the plot lines. Berger used excerpts of the actual witnesses of the bombing to illustrate the scope of the tragedy and made generalizations concerning the horrors of Hiroshima in the historical and global context. Hardy and Hersey, on the other hand, focused mainly on the life stories of their characters, treating Hiroshima tragedy as background.
Berger, who argued for learning an important historical lesson from Hiroshima, narrated from the point of view of a citizen who was not a witness of the bombing, but created the most powerful argumentation by combining the ethos, logos, and pathos. Even though this essay is not a primary source, but rather a collection and analysis of the memoirs of survivors, the narrator demonstrates a profound understanding of the historical context of Hiroshima. Therefore, the speaker is competent, and the ethos component is in its place in Berger’s essay. The competence of the speaker is clear from the opening episode of the essay in which the narrator is asked to give a response to the book on Hiroshima (Berger 269). The narrator easily provides a response, and the readers understand that he is an expert in this field. The logos component of Berger’s rhetoric is also strong. The author provided a comprehensive analysis of several excerpts from the survivors’ memoirs and not only illustrated the suffering of people but also pointed out the causes and aftermath of the tragedy. One of the most important conclusions drawn by Berger was, “This reality includes not only its victims but also its planners and those who support them” (Berger 274).
Importantly, Berger critically evaluated the attitudes of historians and politicians towards the bombing and revealed the truth about them. Thus, Berger admitted that every politician was obliged to say that the Hiroshima bombing should become a historical lesson (Berger 274). However, the term ‘obliged’ clearly demonstrates that the author questions the sincerity of politicians. “Nobody can confront the reality of 6th 1945 without being forced to acknowledge that what happened was evil. It is not a question of opinion or interpretation, but of events” (Berger 274). Finally, one of the most important components used by Berger was pathos, strongly affecting the feelings and emotions of readers. The author used explicit arguments and directly expressed his attitude towards the bombing, using strong epithets and similes. For instance, Berger compares all the depictions of Hiroshima to hell. To emphasize the produced effects, the author even admits that this simile is not hyperbolic at all (Berger 269). Using modern terms, Berger characterizes those who had planned the bombing as terrorists, bitterly stating that modern terrorists can be regarded as humane killers compared to those who decided to drop bombs on Hiroshima. However, the strongest emotional appeals are created by means of details from the witnesses’ memoirs, such as the burnt skin of victims and the small girl bringing water in an empty can for her mother, who is already dead. The final sentence saying that this tragedy cannot be justified is a powerful conclusion for the essay. Therefore, the effective combination of ethos, logos and pathos in Berger’s essay makes it the most powerful one among the three works under analysis.
In contrast to the powerful argumentation line created by Berger, the report offered by Hersey is the weakest one. Even though the author discussed the first-hand experience of the actual victim of Hiroshima, the form of report and the third person narration significantly reduced the persuasiveness of this report. The author depicted the experience of his character Nakamura-san during the bombing in only a few brief sentences: “She lost her mother, brother and a sister to the atomic bomb. Her son and two daughters were buried in rubble when the blast of the bomb flung her house down. In a frenzy, she dug them out alive” (Hersey 133). Therefore, the terrifying tragedy of woman’s life is depicted as a succession of actions. Writing in the ice-cold tone, Hersey did not provide insights into the inner world of the main protagonist and simply included the objective data from her life complicated with radiation sickness. The author did not show the moral suffering of the woman.
Moreover, in one of the final passages, Hersey stated that “The bombing was four decades ago. How far away it seemed!” (Hersey 139). By admitting that the protagonist almost forgot her horrifying experiences, the author reduced the historical significance of the tragedy. The implicit argument that the peacetime life continues is valuable, but it reduces the historical significance of the bombing tragedy. Also, Hersey discussed the social support received by the victims of Hiroshima and completely ignored the political aspects of the historical events. Therefore, the author represented the radiation sickness as the main inconvenience in the life of the main character caused by Hiroshima. Importantly, Hardy and Hersey ended their essays with a similar phrase, admitting that their characters only wanted to go home (Hersey 140; Hardy 373). It shows that both Hardy and Hersey focused on one single destiny of the participant of historical events who did not realize the full scope of the tragedy they had witnessed and were driven mainly by their narrow egoistic interest, to come home.
The peculiarities of narration and reasoning lines of Berger, Hardy and Hersey were shaped by the genres they had chosen. Still, Hardy and Hersey could place more emphasis upon ethos and pathos elements of their essays to make them more persuasive. Thus, Hardy mainly discussed the events preceding the bombing, and included only a few sentences to depict the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima: “Most of the city had been leveled to the ground, and many of its inhabitants disintegrated to dust in an instant by a single bomb. Our scientists have changed the history of the world” (Hardy 371). Whereas the perspective of Americans who “celebrated” the bombing and believed that it could be justified by the noble goals of putting an end to the war was valuable, the main moral message of the author remained unclear. Hardy tried to be realistic when showing the events through the eyes of a young girl who did not fully understand the situation and could not make her own moral choices because nobody asked her if she wanted to participate in developing the bombs. Similarly to Hardy’s essay, the work by Hersey could be stronger if the author had paid more attention to the ethos and pathos of the story. Insights into the inner s of Nakamura-san might strengthen the readers’ impressions from the narration.
As it can be seen from the analysis of these three essays by Berger, Hardy and Hersey addressing the same theme of Hiroshima bombing, the authors can use stylistic devices and logos, ethos and pathos as the elements of the rhetorical triangle to make their reasoning more persuasive and communicate their messages to readers more effectively.
Berger, John. “Hiroshima”. Fields of Reading: Motives for Writing. Ed. Nancy Comley, David Hamilton and Carl Klaus. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 268 – 275. Print.
Hardy, Zoe Tracy. “What Did You Do in the War, Grandma? A Flashback to August 1945.” Fields of Reading: Motives for Writing. Ed. Nancy Comley, David Hamilton and Carl Klaus. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 366 – 373. Print.
Hersey, John. “Hatsuyo Nakamura.” Fields of Reading: Motives for Writing. Ed. Nancy Comley, David Hamilton and Carl Klaus. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 133 – 140. Print.