Stoicism: The Source of Irrationality in Hersey's Hiroshima

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The embrace of a community is catalyzed by disaster. This disaster gives rise to heightened states of panic, which is distributed in varying degrees among those affected. The affected are then forced into an accelerated process of survival, which is more efficiently successful with the contribution of individuals to the single necessity of life. The United States dropped the first atomic bomb in history on August 6, 1945 in Japan. The new bomb was dropped on Hiroshima with the hopes and success of ending World War II. The reaction of the survivors of the bomb is a paradoxical blend of irrational stoicism and instinctive unity. John Hersey’s book Hiroshima depicts the ability of the Japanese to strengthen the bonds within the community in order help one another survive. Although the inhabitants of Hiroshima instinctively come together with the common goal of survival, their stoic programming causes them to act passive aggressively, which creates an internal battle between human and ideal that thwarts their ability to rationalize the gravity of their individual sufferings, ultimately preventing a real unification. The family values that would normally influence reactions to terrible situations are replaced with the prevalent theme of the coming together and contagious outreach within the Japanese community that was directly affected by the bomb. Very few scenes in Hiroshima are devoted to families; most scenes involve people who are alone at the time of the bomb. While the initial experiences were different among characters, Hersey explains the “One feeling they did seem to share, however, was a curious kind of elated community spirit” (87). Such a brotherhood-type relationship within the community is certainly advocated by Stoicism but is particularly strengthened by the extraordinary situation caused by the atomic bomb, seemingly pointing to an influence other than
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