Dr. Sasaki's life is one of compassion, hard work, wealth, and ghosts. He displays his compassion, and hard work is an essential throughout his life. The pursuit of wealth sometimes seems to be his defense against the ghosts that haunt him after August 6, 1945.
As a young doctor at the Red Cross Hospital in Hiroshima, Dr. Sasaki is working toward his license by finishing physician certification.
After the bombing, Dr. Sasaki grabs every bandage he can find and goes to work. Moving relentlessly from one patient to another, he works for 19 hours straight until he can hardly see or wind bandages around limbs anymore. Throughout his career, he works long hours taking care of his patients. He also becomes an expert on the medical problems of the hibakusha, reading about and researching the best procedures to help them. There is no doubt that he is an excellent doctor.
His hard work allows him to amass a great deal of wealth. His nonstop pursuit of long hours and wealth seem to be a panacea for his experience on August 6, 1945. Dr. Sasaki insulates himself from close relationships and emotions by working long hours and seeing many patients. However, when he is diagnosed with lung cancer, he begins to spend more time with his wife and children and rekindles the compassion that he has always had. His wife's death from breast cancer is a terrible blow, resulting once again in his headlong pursuit of pleasure and wealth. Readers wonder what drives him and what demons are chasing him. Hersey explains in Sasaki's later years.
The doctor avoids the Hiroshima district for a period of time and feels relief when he sees fewer and fewer hibakusha. Sasaki's fears of ghosts are mentioned twice in the narrative. Because the Japanese revere their dead and feel that it is their duty to give them proper rites of burial, Dr. Sasaki is haunted by the hundreds of bodies that were not correctly disposed of according to his cultural/religious beliefs. Even at the pinnacle of success when he is surrounded by a loving family and has an estate worth a fortune, Dr. Sasaki still lingers over the ghosts of those people who were beyond his help.