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Free Study Guide-Hiroshima by John Hersey-Free Online Book Notes Summary
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER FOUR: Panic Grass And Fever Few

Summary

This chapter discusses the main charactersí fates from 12 days after the bomb fell to a full year later. In this time period, we see the longer-term effects that the bomb had on their physical beings. All of them suffered some degree of radiation sickness in the months following their atomic exposure, mirroring the widespread experience of other bomb survivors. Doctors in the city slowly came to understand the disease: The first stage involved the bodyís absorption of massive radiation. This explained the mysterious deaths of many seemingly uninjured people in the first hours after the bombing. Those who lived through this phase experienced nausea, fever, headaches and diarrhea for several days. The second stage came about two weeks after exposure: Hair fell out, the patient got diarrhea, and high fevers were common. Blood disorders appeared a month after the bombing. A steady and high fever and a white blood count falling too low meant the patient would not survive. In the third stage, the body compensated for its problems by increasing the white blood cell count, but many died of complications. Burns usually healed with deep scar tissue on the top, called keloid tumors. Some patients suffered such radiation sickness for a matter of weeks, others for months upon months.

The chapter also briefly describes the U.S. occupational governmentís plan for rebuilding the city. Since Hiroshima had been an important military command post, there was now no clear vision for the cityís purpose, and the planning finally became disorganized and random. Also, Japanese scientists were able to understand much of the atomic bombís function and effects by studying the ruins; yet the Americans remained extremely guarded with their supposed atomic secrets.


Father Kleinsorge had perhaps the worst sickness of the six main characters. He walked around Hiroshima and performed errands 12 days after the bombing, and by evening was exhausted. His wounds then opened wider and were inflamed. After a couple weeks of faintness and fever, his colleagues sent him to the Catholic International Hospital in Tokyo. He remained there for over three months, suffering high fevers, a low white blood cell count, and anemia. He enjoyed being a curiosity in Tokyo as one of only a few atom bomb patients, compared to one of thousands who were ill in Hiroshima. When he returned to Hiroshima, the Jesuits had built another mission house and purchased a simple structure for a chapel. His doctors had ordered him to nap for two hours each day, but he found that difficult with so much pressing work. By August he was forced to return to the hospital in Tokyo for a monthís recuperation.

Mrs. Nakamura, living in Kabe with her sister-in-law, lost all of her hair within a few weeks of the bombing and was bedridden with nausea along with her younger daughter. Curiously, her older daughter and son felt fine. Mrs. Nakamura soon heard a rumor that the atomic bomb had emitted a poison in Hiroshima which made the city uninhabitable for seven years. This changed her former passivity about the bombís morality into outrage at America. But after Japanese physicists carefully studied the radiation levels in the city, they determined that there was no lingering danger to humans. This greatly relieved Mrs. Nakamura, especially since it meant she could recover the sewing machine she had left behind. Still sick but unable to afford a doctor, she began to feel better just by continuing to rest. She heard about rustic shacks being rented in Hiroshima and moved there with the cash from her war-time bonds and savings. Her money was gone by the following summer, however, and she was torn as to what she should do.

Mr. Tanimoto, too, became mysteriously sick a few weeks after the bomb fell. A nurse diagnosed him with mild radiation disease and prescribed injections of vitamin B1. He rested for a total of two months, trying to eat as much as possible and using herbs to control his high fever. When he returned to Hiroshima, he set up a tent for worship. He became friends with Father Kleinsorge but envied the Jesuits for their material resources. A year after the bombing, Mr. Tanimoto felt pride in how he and his community had weathered the disaster, and wrote to an American friend about the bravery of many who died. He described how several people he knew, when faced with certain death, chose to honor the Emperor and die for the Emperor.

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