Character Analysis Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto


The Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto is a Methodist minister with a parish in Hiroshima. A "cautious, thoughtful man," he has sent his family to the country. The concerns of his parish weigh on his mind. Throughout the novel, Tanimoto's acts of mercy and compassion are juxtaposed with his feelings of helplessness and rage because so many need help and he is only one man. His stamina is amazing both immediately following the bombing and in the years when he tries to raise money and help for the hibakusha.

Tanimoto's stamina is almost legendary. He carries water to the wounded and tirelessly ferries people to higher ground. For hours and days, he physically carries people, rows a boat, organizes groups to help each other, and rescues people from the river. Despite the horrendous sights he sees, he never loses his civilized manners or behavior. When he "borrows" a boat from five dead people, he asks their forgiveness. His major concern is that he cannot stay with all of the people he helps, and he has moments of great sorrow and rage when he realizes that many of the people he helps drown anyway. Of the two girls he rescues from the river, one dies almost immediately from shock. There are so many people in need of help that he cannot begin to help them all, and the numbers are unfathomable. Nevertheless, he works tirelessly, hour after hour, to do what he can. This is the stamina that readers see again when he crisscrosses the United States speaking tirelessly in support of the hibakusha.

Tanimoto's sense of honor and duty is presented alongside his quiet understanding of life's ironies. When the Emperor speaks to the people over the radio, Tanimoto is amazed and awe-struck that the Emperor has deigned to speak to the "little people." He is deeply moved by his leader's message; he concentrates less on the fact that they have lost the war and more on the idea that an emperor would speak to his people. Tanimoto also feels that if something has come out of all this, it is that many people showed the spirit of their ancestors by "dying well." However, he also describes the listeners as shattered, broken, and tattered remnants of the "little people" who have suffered greatly.

Mr. Tanimoto also demonstrates forgiveness when he goes to the bedside of Mr. Tanaka. This dying man had besmirched Tanimoto's reputation in life, but in death the reverend forgives him and says a prayer over his dying moments.

The story of the television show on which Mr. Tanimoto must confront the very man who dropped the bomb is astonishing. Showing his sense of dignity and silencing his rage, Mr. Tanimoto faces the drunken pilot with a sense of calm and indifference. Mr. Tanimoto's civilized demeanor mitigates what could have been a terrible scene.

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