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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER FOUR: Panic Grass And Fever Few
The strange title for this chapter, "Panic Grass and Feverfew," is derived from two of the many types of plants that spring up to cover Hiroshimaís ruins soon after the bombing. The bomb stimulated the underground organs of vegetation, and within a month of the disaster, fresh greenery covers fallen buildings, ruined houses, and even charred trees. Miss Sasaki sees this phenomenon and understandably gets a strange feeling. The juxtaposition of new life, even plant life, with dead buildings and human ashes is striking and eerie. However, it symbolizes how life must go on for the survivors of Hiroshima, and how they, too, quickly return to living even after so much is destroyed. The chapter title is also a play-on-words with the symptoms of radiation sickness that most of the main characters are experiencing. A high fever is one of the most common symptoms suffered by Hiroshima survivors, and some of the characters experience mild panic when faced with the financial hardships, physical limitations, and lack of accurate information that plague their post-bomb lives.
This chapter depicts the main characters facing the hard task of finally rebuilding their lives, after the initial devastation is behind them. In the year following their personal and community catastrophe, each continues to be affected by the bombing, some more seriously than others. Perhaps the most well-off, financially and physically, is Dr. Fujii. Yet even he meets further misfortune. This reminds the reader that simply because they survive such a monumental trauma does not mean that the characters are blessed with easy lives afterward. Life continues as it would have otherwise, involving both fortunate and unfortunate circumstances.
Dr. Fujiiís misfortune is that he is flooded out of the home he was staying in as a guest. The house lands in the river and is washed away. This is ironic since he lost his private clinic when it, also, landed in a river from the impact of the atomic bomb. Also, in this same tragic flood, numerous bomb patients and doctors researching their problems were drowned. By pointing out this fact, Hersey is emphasizing the point that life holds no special graces even for courageous survivors; it continues to be a trying experience.
This chapter begins to mention the cityís thoughts on the ethics of the bomb, which the author narrates more fully in the final chapter. Many in Hiroshima are neutral in their moral judgment about the use of the atomic bomb. Along with their indifference, they also hesitate to think about it very much at all. The author speculates that this may be due to their fear of and trauma from the bomb; they prefer to forget their ordeal altogether. The reason may also have come from the Japanese psyche of being resigned to hardships, expressed as "shikataga nai," or "oh well, it canít be helped." This originates from the Buddhist belief that emptying oneself of worldly thoughts, both good and bad, leads to understanding and contentment. Some people, however, harbor a deep hatred for America for what it has done. Dr. Sasaki is one character who expresses anger at the Americans. However, the indifference on the part of most of the main characters and Hiroshima as a whole is a significant cultural element in the book.