“The Day of the Bomb” is a children novel describing the childhood of a four-year-old Sadako, a nice yet sensitive and naughty child. It was written by Austrian author Karl Bruckner.
The novel has been published in 1961., soon becoming a worldwide success translated into over 70 different languages and sold in over 2 millions of copies. This novel is a sad story, used as an attempt of warning about the war horrors and death of the children who are least responsible for such events.
The plot is based on two children from a Japanese family, who are experiencing the biggest catastrophe ever, the explosion of the atomic bomb. The main character, Sadako Sasaki became the victim of a nuclear bomb explosion at the age four.
The bomb exploded about a mile and a half away from her, hurting Sadako who soon developed the signs of radiation illness. After a while, she got diagnosed with leukemia and doctors predicted her about a year of life left.
Inspired by a book that she read, she decided to make a thousand of paper cranes, based on a popular Japanese belief that she could earn a right for making one of her wishes become true. The crane is a Japanese traditional symbol of peace and health, and Sadako’s wish was to proceed on living.
Although she was determent on making those cranes, she often occurred various difficulties, as running out of paper etc. She put all of her strength in making her goal become true, but sadly she passed away from making 990 paper cranes.
This story is inspired by the real girl named Sadako, who died as a victim of radiation consequences after the Hiroshima bombing. Before her death, she was making her own paper cranes, but the exact number of them made remained unknown. Her friends made the missing number of paper cranes until the total was a thousand of them and then buried them with her body.
The character of Sadako, popularized by this book and other stories as well, remained as a symbol of nuclear war victims, and war victims as general, where the civilians are most often victims. Sadako was a playful, nice and cheerful little girl when she witnessed the bombing, dying with the frightening death.
This novel is considered to be written for the younger readers, as a warning and a lesson for them to not allow these type of events to happen ever again, once they become the ones in charge of this world. The story about Sadako is a part of a national culture in Japan mentioned at every anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
Genre: children’s novel
Time: time period between 1945.-955.
Place: city of Hiroshima
The year of 1945. was extremely hard in Japan, where the consequences of war were visible on every step of the way. Hiroshima was one of the few cities who managed to avoid frequently bombing, compared with the other Japanese towns, but everything was marked by war as well. Food supplies were running short, children weren’t attending the class and the every one of the capable man was on the battlefield.Also, a lot of Japanese citizens were convinced of victory, unlike from the Commander of the General Staff, field marshal Hara. He was monitoring the current state of the battles led in all the fronts and was informed about their armies withdraw.
At the beginning of the novel, the reader gets to meet a Sasaki family. Father Sasaki is a barber, currently on the battlefield and mother Sasaki works in Mitsubishi shipyard under the number 389. Their older son Shige is ten and currently not attending the class and enjoying it, while he babysits the Sadako, his four-year-old sister. While their mother is at work, the two of them spend their days in searching for food. Once they had luck when the elderly woman felt sorry for seeing Sadako crying because of the hunger.
Shigeo and Sadako often meet their neighbors, a widower Kumakihi who is convinced of having a pot full of rice buried in her back yard so Shigeo helps her in the search. They also meet a starving older boat builder, Kenya Nishioka.
In the meanwhile, at the military base settled in Pacific ocean, American soldiers are being prepared for the final encounter with Japan. While the plain soldiers spend their time playing card games and talking to each other, serious events started taking place. Mysterious civilians were visiting the base related to the Manhattan project, a bomb built by the group of scientists from 1943.-1945. The project should accelerate the end of the war.
The bomb was delivered in Tiananmen by an airplane. Although the soldiers noticed the crate with the bomb, they had no idea what was happening. The day before the bomb being delivered, a B-29 bomber flew over Hiroshima, taking photos of the area of attack. The airplane was named Enola Gray, by the Sargent Tibbet’s mother.
The bomber took off on August 6th, 1945. Yasuko Sasaki asked Shige to take Sadako with him while he was standing in line for food. There were a lot of people standing , waiting nervously as well. Sadako almost got ran over in a stampede of the moving crowd, but Shigeo pulled her out and they headed home. On their way home, Shigeo decided to go for a swim in the lake, while Sadako waited for him, sitting in the grass.
At the very moment, he dived under the surface of the water, a bright light blinded him, followed with thunder. A powerful wind threw him at the shore, and he started looking around in search of Sadako, seeing her further away crying, covered with bruises and her dress being torn. Their mother was also experiencing the state of shock, thinking only of her children despite suffering from injuries as well. Although she was surrounded by the screaming injured workers, she ran out of the factory in search for her children.
The bomb exploded at 08:45, burning 86 000 of people within a second, and causing severe injuries on 72 000 as well. 6 820 of houses and 3 750 buildings collapsed into the dust, filling the city with horrible burning ruins. Interesting, the ones who threw the bomb were not aware of the horrifying consequences, only reporting their supervisors on the successfully finishing the mission.
This event resulted in the quicker surrender of the Japanese troops, as they were ought to sign their capitulation for the first time in history. That was quite of a shock for Japanese soldiers, who were considering themselves as invincible.
Two years after the bomb being thrown, Shigeo and Sadako remain on wandering the city just like before the explosion. With the end of the war, their father returned home, although he feared his entire family was lost. He already decided to commit a suicide when he saw their house got burnt to the ground , but luckily, changed his mind after finding his family starved, standing in the river shoal.
The children, together with their father, started to collect everything that could be used for rebuilding their home. Even harder days begun as the factories remained closed, and the number of patients was growing. The markets were closed as well, leaving them without food. The father Sasaki built some sort of hut, dreaming about opening a barber shop in the future.
Sadako found a dragon figurine while she was digging through the ruins and named it Chicamazu. Shigeo used to scare her using the figurine when she was younger. Their father took the dragon figurine and tried to sell it, as he would buy some barber tools instead, but the guardians of a black-marketer Ofuse stole the figurine from him. Sadako wanted her bronze dragon back, but her father brought her the paper kite instead, made by the master Shibata who helped him get the tools necessary for opening a barber shop. Two years after bombing Sadako confesses Shige she got “burned with the lightning” as well, meaning she got radiated as well. Shigeo accused her of imagining things.
A decade later Sasaki had a house and a barber shop, employing a couple of workers as well. Sadako is now fourteen, attending school
regularly, and master Shibata is building kites again. He was filled with orders for making a lot of paper lanterns for the celebration of the Peace Day. As a commemoration, the state organized a bike race from Tokio to Hiroshima, and Sadako was competing on behalf of her school, riding the bike for the last ten miles.
Sadako was impatiently waiting for the race, despite her feeling ill. She managed to end the race as a 19th contestant, but her health got worse and she was hospitalized.
Japanese doctor Hiroshi Okada was treating her illness, together with the assistance of American physician, Floyd Owens who felt guilt for America’s bombing. The parents are visiting Sadako daily, and her brother Shigeo, also hospitalized, brings her the figurine of the dragon Shikimate. Master Shibata bought the figurine back.
Sadako is unaware of her serious condition and she is convinced in restoring her health back. Her father advises her to make thousand paper cranes, as a vow to gods answering her prayers. Shigeo brought her the paper so she started cutting out the cranes and hang them above her bed. Shigeo died after making his four hundred and fifth crane, and Sadako passed out at 989, suffering from excruciating pain since the making of the 900th crane.
In the Garden of Peace, a statue is built, displaying Sadako as she holds the golden crane while standing at the top of a nuclear bomb. The statue has been made thanks to the collaboration of all the students across the country.
Characters: Sadako, Shigeo, mother Yasuko, father Sasaki
The main character of the novel portrayed through her childhood from the age of four. Just like the other girls her age, she is playful, naughty and nice, loving her older brother and follows him around. She is well raised, behaving nicely, and is also energetic and consistent. She is unaware of her bad health, believing in the story about a thousand of cranes. The author made her a symbol of all the innocent children who died as war victims.
Sadako’s brother also portrayed throughout his childhood, since he was ten years old. He is a typical boy, raised in a traditional Japanese way, acting politely to the elderly, treating them with respect and greeting them with a bow, as he was taught at home. He is also consistent, and a great authority for his younger sister. He never left her side, despite the fact that she was sometimes getting in his way.
Shigeo and Sadako’s mother, typical Japanese wife, who is always obedient to her husband. She is a very caring person, devoting her life to her children, and worried about them the whole time during her work in the factory. She kept on starving herself, as a way of providing more food for her children, risking a serious health consequence.
Appears after the end of the war, taking over the lead in his family. He is a hard-working and caring father who fights relentlessly for getting his family out of poverty. With the little use of luck, he succeeds in realizing his plans. He acts in a traditional Japanese way.
Karl Bruckner Biography
Karl Bruckner is born in Vienna 1906. After finishing school he worked in a lot of different positions. He spent two years of his life in South America, and learned about the horrors of war, serving in the German army during the second World War.
After a couple of years of wandering, he proved himself as a writer, with his youth novels becoming popular worldwide and translated into many different languages.
He received a couple of prizes for his novels, and also was nominated for the Andersen’s prize, also known as the most important prize for the children literature.
After his 40th birthday, he started writing more for children and youth, writing for various newspapers and publishing many novels, for youth and adults as well. His works have been translated into over 90 languages.
Karl Bruckner remained the most popular for his book from 1961., “The Day of the Bomb”. The other popular titles by this author are “Only Two Robots” and “Sickness of the youth”.
He won the prizes of the city of Vienna for the best children novel and best youth novel as well. Bruckner dies in Vienna, 1958.