Hiroshima

by: John Hersey

Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura

Characters Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura

A tailor’s widow raising three young children on her own, Mrs. Nakamura is caring and resourceful, as well as a dedicated citizen. As Hersey puts it, she “had long had a habit of doing as she was told.” She and her children survive the explosion without any external physical harm, but she and her daughter, Myeko, later come down with radiation sickness and suffer with it for years.

Of the six people profiled in Hiroshima, Mrs. Nakamura is the only one in charge of a family—although some of the male characters are married, their wives and children are not present in the narrative—and the only person who struggles with poverty as a direct result of the war. Perhaps because she is busy caring for herself and her children after the bombing, as opposed to being involved with the larger community, she never emerges as a clearly defined character. We get a glimpse into her psyche when, in Chapter Four, Hersey says that after hearing that they poisoned the city, she begins to hate America even more than she did during the war. When this rumor is later dispelled, however, she returns to an attitude of general passivity, summing up her position regarding the war with the expression “Shikata ga nai,” or “It can’t be helped.”

Mrs. Nakamura’s role in the narrative seems to be that of an ordinary victim of an extraordinary event. She suffers from -radiation sickness and, consequently, extreme poverty, for many years—yet she does not harbor hatred or resentment about her predicament. She eventually manages to get a good job, and when we last see her she is financially well off and content. Mrs. Nakamura shows us that even after being unwilling guinea pigs in the worst act of war in history, many citizens of Hiroshima simply continued on with their lives as best as they could.