Luke Huelsenbeck
Mrs. Davis
AP Language and Composition
September 28, 2007
                                Hiroshima Rhetoric
       Hiroshima, by John Hersey, is a terrifying account of six survivors stories during

and after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Throughout the story, Hersey employs

several kinds of rhetoric in order to appeal to the passion and understanding of the reader.

These accounts are the first coming from the Japanese side of the war, leaving Hersey the

difficult task of appealing to Americans, as fellow human beings, to see the death and

destruction that occurred in Hiroshima. Of the many rhetorical devices used,

personification and assonance stand out in Hersey’s writing as major forces accentuated

by the purpose in Hiroshima.

       In chapter two, titled The Fire, Hersey describes the actions taken by all six

surviving victims directly after the detonation of the then unknown atomic bomb. Havoc

is spreading throughout the city as some citizens are mortally wounded, and others are

trying to aid them as quickly as possible. At this time, rubble starts to catch fire and

Hersey gives this fire a satanic and very antagonistic essence, as it spreads and endangers

the thousands of wounded people. “New fires were leaping up, and they spread quickly,

and in a very short time terrible blasts of hot air…made it impossible to stand on the

bridge anymore” (24). Hersey gives a sense that the fire is now trying to trap and catch all

of the bomb victims, as it slowly builds and dances around their wrecked homes. He uses

the liveliness of the fire to show the destructive power and deadliness of the after shock

of the bomb. “…he freed himself and ran down the alleys of Nobori-cho, hemmed in by

the fire he had said would never come” (34). The fire seems enraged by the people

doubting it, and seeks revenge by trapping and attempting to kill them. Hersey’s
personification of fire helps him describe the struggle that the victims of Hiroshima had

to deal with.

       Hersey also describes the horror and treacheries with well-depicted images of

mortally wounded and grotesquely injured people. He uses assonance to draw out a sense

of pain and misery to the reader. “Dr. Sasaki, who had believed the enemy had hit only

the building he was in, got bandages, and began to bind the wounds of those inside the

hospital” (15). The repetition of “b” brings out the sentence and aids the reader in

comprehending the quick reaction and dutifulness of Dr. Sasaki. It also highlights the

sentence, and makes the reader truly realize how much work was ahead of the whole

country of Japan in helping the victims. “Mr. Tanimoto sent some to look for buckets and

basins and told others to beat the burning underbrush with their clothes” (37). Hersey

uses assonance yet again in order to emphasize the importance of the sentence. The

sentence describes what work must be done by all of the survivors and the struggles that

lie ahead for both the injured victims and the ones helping them. Hersey’s purpose forces

him to use assonance in order to highlight sentences to reveal important events that are

either occurring or about to occur.

                Hiroshima’s purpose helps accentuate the use of the rhetorical devices of

personification and assonance. Although others are used, personification and assonance

are emphasized by Hersey’s central purpose of describing the destruction and shear terror

that existed in Hiroshima during and after the bombing. Hersey’s use of rhetorical

devices also, conversely, helped him describe and get his purpose across to the reader. By

using rhetoric, he accomplished many fantastic descriptions, and helped the reader truly

comprehend the devastation and awfulness of the bombing of Hiroshima.

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