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A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 Summary, Explanation, Theme

 

 

ICSE Class 9 English Poem A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 Summary, Line by Line Explanation, Theme, Poetic Devices along with difficult word meanings from Treasure Chest Book

 

A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 – Are you looking for Theme, Summary and Poem Explanation for ICSE Class 9 English Poem A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 from Treasure Chest (A Collection of ICSE Poems and Short Stories) book. Get Summary, Theme, Explantion, Poetic Devices along with difficult word meanings.

 

A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 ICSE Class 9 English 

By Vikram Seth

 

 

Introduction to A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945

A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945, describes the destruction caused by the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima by America, during the Second World War on August 6, 1945.

The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made Japan surrender and led to the end of the Second World War. The infamous day on which the first atomic bomb took place over Hiroshima changed everyone’s worldview. 

In this poem, we see an entry made in a journal by a doctor for keeping records. It gives a picture of how people were taken by surprise when the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
 

 

A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945 Summary

At a Glance

  • The narrator stretches himself on a warm peaceful morning admiring nature.
  • He suddenly sees two strong flashes of light.
  • Then he sees destruction all around him and his clothes vanish.
  • The narrator calls his wife, who is also blood-stained and scared.
  • The poet sees people suffering all around him.
  • Yecko-san, the narrator’s wife, goes to the hospital.
  • Suffering, anguish and silence of people due to utter shock.

 

Detailed Summary

 

The poem “A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945” by Vikram Seth isn’t actually a real journal entry, but it is written in a diary form to capture the experience of a doctor after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

The poem starts with a peaceful scene: a calm, beautiful, and warm morning. The narrator describes what he sees outside as the morning light filters through the leaves. This scene is shattered by a sudden, blinding flash, followed by another. Shocked, the narrator notices a previously familiar object – an old stone lantern which is now illuminated in an unnatural way.  

The poem describes a sudden and violent event. The speaker is shocked by a bright flash, possibly mistaking it for magnesium flares. Before they can fully determine the source, there’s a devastating collapse. The world around them crumbles, leaving them surrounded by dust and debris. In the chaos, the speaker even notices the strange disappearance of their clothing.

Then the narrator describes a scene of injury and confusion. A splinter pierces the doctor’s thigh, bleeding his right side, and he also suffers a torn cheek. Despite the pain and damage, the speaker remains focused on understanding what had happened.

The poem depicts a scene of panic and injury. The doctor, amidst the disaster, searches for his wife, Yecko-san. He shouts for her, then mentions his own serious injury, a severed artery in his neck. Despite his fear, he tries to reassure his wife, who appears wounded as well.

The doctor and his wife are fleeing from their house and going towards the hospital. Their escape is disrupted when they trip over something on the ground. The horror unfolds as the speaker realises that it is a severed head, belonging to someone who was crushed by a gate. This gruesome discovery adds a layer of shock and fear to their situation.

The house in front of the narrator collapses, followed by a fire. This shakes him and his wife and makes them realise that they need medical attention and should head to the hospital. The narrator also feels a responsibility to help the staff, although reflecting back, he questions how he was even able to think straight in such a chaotic situation.

 

The doctor’s legs were hurt, he collapsed from exhaustion and thirst, but slowly regained his strength and rose again. The doctor was still naked and felt no shame. Then a soldier offered him a towel, he showed kindness and covered up the doctor. 

The doctor was injured and weak, his legs refusing to move due to dried blood. The doctor made the difficult decision to send Yecko-san ahead for help. Despite the fear of being alone, they had no other choice.

The poem describes a group of silent, suffering people. Their bodies are shadowy and like ghosts and scarecrows, hinting at their weak condition. The stretched  arms, described as dangling, reveal a burn so severe that even the slightest touch is unbearable. Injured people are slowly moving towards a hospital. The narrator witnesses a woman and child, both unclothed, and wonders if they had come straight from bath. Looking away doesn’t help the narrator understand the situation. Seeing another naked person clarifies that something strange has left everyone without clothes.

The poem depicts an old woman lying on the ground, her face shows that she is in a lot of pain. Despite her suffering, she remains silent. This silence seems to be a shared experience of all the suffering people, with no cries or words escaping anyone.
 

 

Poem Explanation

Poem:
The morning stretched calm, beautiful, and warm.
Sprawling half-clad, I gazed out at the form
Of shimmering leaves and shadows. Suddenly
A strong flash, then another, startled me.
I saw the old stone lantern brightly lit. 

Word meanings:
stretched: spread
gazed: looked intently
Half-clad: dressed in less clothes

Explanation:
The poem is in the form of a journal entry made on August 6, 1945 by a doctor. The poet begins the narration on a peaceful note. He says that when the day dawned, it was calm, beautiful and warm. He was not fully clothed when he got up and stretched himself and saw shining leaves and shadows outside. However, he was suddenly taken by surprise by two sudden flashes of light. He saw the old lantern made of stone light up. 

Poem:
Magnesium flares? While I debated it,
The roof, the walls and, as it seemed, the world
Collapsed in timber and debris, dust swirled
Around me – in the garden now – and, weird,
My drawers and undershirt disappeared. 

Word meanings:
Magnesium flares: When ignited, it produces bright light

collapsed: fell down
timber: pieces of broken wood
weird: eerie/ strange

Explanation:
The narrator wondered whether the flashes were magnesium flares that are seen during a war. While he was still thinking over those flares, the roof and the wall of the building fell down and the debris scattered all over and dust started blowing around him. Furthermore, his drawers and undershirt disappeared, implying that they also got burnt.

Poem:
A splinter jutted from my mangled thigh.
My right side bled, my cheek was torn, and I
Dislodged, detachedly, a piece of glass,
All the time wondering what had come to pass. 

Word meanings:
splinter: a small, thin, sharp piece of wood, glass, or similar material broken off from a larger piece.  

mangled: crushed/ damaged
jutted: stuck out
dislodged: took out
detachedly: indifferently

Explanation:
A thin piece of metal or glass pierced the narrator’s right thigh and then, the right side of his body started to bleed. His cheek was hurt too. He removed a piece of glass from his body and wondered what had happened to him. He was in a state of confusion and shock regarding what was happening.

Poem:
Where was my wife? Alarmed, I gave a shout,
‘Where are you, Yecko-san?’ My blood gushed out.
The artery in my neck? Scared for my life,
I called out, panic-stricken, to my wife.
Pale, bloodstained, frightened, Yecko-san emerged,
Holding her elbow. ‘We’ll be fine,’ I urged –

Word meanings:
gushed out: flowed quickly
scared: frightened
emerged: came out

Explanation:
The narrator looked for his wife Yecko-san. Shocked and alarmed, he called for her. Meanwhile blood kept flowing quickly out of his body. The blood flow was so sudden and quick that it made the doctor wonder if it was the artery in his neck that bled. Being a doctor he feared bleeding to death. He called out for his wife again. Yecko-san appeared, holding her elbow. She was pale, bloodstained and scared. Despite his own injury, the narrator assured her that they would be fine and told her that they should go out quickly. 

Poem:
‘Let’s get out quickly.’ Stumbling to the street
We fell, tripped by something at our feet.
I gasped out, when I saw it was a head:
‘Excuse me, please excuse me -’ He was dead:
A gate had crushed him. There we stood, afraid.

Word meanings:
stumbling: trippling
tripped: caught your foot on something and almost fell
gasped out: breathed with difficulty

Explanation:
When they were walking to the hospital, they hit their feet against the head of a man who had been crushed to death under a gate. This sight frightened the doctor and his wife. 

Poem:
A house standing before us tilted, swayed,
Toppled, and crashed. Fire sprang up in the dust,
Spread by the wind. It dawned on us we must
Get to the hospital: we needed aid –
And I should help my staff too. (Though this made
Sense to me then, I wonder how I could)

Word meanings:
tilted: bent to one side

Explanation:
There was a house standing before the narrator which tilted, shook from side to side and crashed in front of their eyes. It caught fire and the fire spread widely due to the wind. The couple thought of running to the hospital as they needed help for themselves. They thought of their staff. Though it was a good idea, the narrator wondered how he could help the staff when he himself was injured.

Poem:
My legs gave way. I sat down on the ground.
Thirst seized me, but no water could be found.
My breath was short, but bit by bit my strength
Seemed to revive, and I got up at length.

Explanation:
The narrator’s legs were weak and he sat down on the ground. He was thirsty but there was no water to drink. His breath was short but little by little his strength was being restored and he got up on his legs.

Poem:
I was still naked, but I felt no shame.
This thought disturbed me somewhat, till I came
Upon a soldier, standing silently,
Who gave the towel round his neck to me

Explanation:
The narrator was still undressed but he was not ashamed. This situation disturbed him but he kept on walking till he met a soldier who was standing on the side. The soldier had a towel around his neck which he gave to the narrator.

Poem:
My legs, stiff with dried blood, rebelled. I said
To Yecko-san she must go on ahead.
She did not wish to, but in our distress
What choice had we? A dreadful loneliness
Came over me when she had gone. My mind
Ran at high speed, my body crept behind.

Word meanings:
distress: misery
crept: moved very slowly

Explanation:
The narrator’s legs were stiff with dried blood and he was unable to move them. He said that Yecko-san must go ahead alone to the hospital. She was unwilling to go, but in their situation, they had no other choice. After his wife’s departure, the narrator felt lonely. His mind was working fast but his body could not keep up its speed with the mind.

Poem:
I saw the shadowy forms of people, some
Were ghosts, some scarecrows, all were wordless dumb –
Arms stretched straight out, shoulder to dangling hand;
It took some time for me to understand
The friction on their burns caused so much pain
They feared to chafe flesh against flesh again.

Word meanings:
scarecrows: the people are compared to the dummy human forms placed in fields to frighten crows

Explanation:
The narrator saw the shadow-like appearances of people, some looked like ghosts, the others like the scarecrows but everyone was silent as if they were dumb. Some were walking with arms stretched out and a shoulder or a hand dangling loose from their body. It took some time for him to understand the situation. The friction on their wounds caused so much pain when the burnt wounds rubbed against each other. 

Poem:
Those who could, shuffled in a blank Parade
Towards the hospital. I saw, dismayed,
A woman with a child stand in my path –
Both naked. Had they come back from the bath?

Word meanings:
dismayed: shocked

Explanation:
The narrator was stunned to see people in huge numbers, walking without clothes, towards the hospital. He saw with deep anguish a woman and child on his way, both naked. He wondered whether they had come out straight after a bath as they were unclothed. 

Poem:
I turned my gaze, but was at a loss
That she should stand thus, till I came across
A naked man – and now the thought arose|
That some strange thing had stripped us of our clothes.

Word meanings:
came across: met

Explanation:

The narrator ignored them but he did not understand the situation till he saw another naked man. Then he realised that some strange thing had happened because of which people’s clothes had got burnt.

Poem:
The face of an old woman on the ground
Was marred with suffering, but she made no sound.
Silence was common to us all. I heard
No cries of anguish, or a single word. 

Word meanings:
marred: damaged/ruined
anguish: pain

Explanation:
Then the narrator saw an old woman lying on the ground, whose face was disfigured with suffering. But she did not complain. Silence was a common feature of all the suffering men and women. All were shocked and they had become speechless. They were unable to cry despite their pain.
 

 

Title Analysis of the Poem A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945

The title, “A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945,” immediately sets the stage for a personal account of a day in history. The specific date, August 6, 1945, suggests the entry will deal with the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. “Doctor’s Journal Entry” implies the perspective will be from a medical professional who likely witnessed the horrific consequences of the bomb. 

Here’s a breakdown of the title’s elements:

  • Doctor’s perspective: The title immediately restricts the viewpoint to that of a medical professional. This suggests a firsthand account of the events, potentially focusing on the medical response to a critical situation.
  • Journal entry format: “Journal entry” implies a personal record of experiences and reflections. 
  • Specific date: August 6, 1945: This particular date holds immense historical weight, marking the bombing of Hiroshima in World War II. It sets the stage for a narrative likely connected to the aftermath of the bombing.

 

 

Theme of A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945

 

Destruction caused by the Bomb

The poem revolves around the theme of destruction caused by the bombing of Hiroshima. The narration in the poem is carried out by a doctor on the spot, who describes how everybody was leading a normal life, when sudden calamity fell on them. The poem begins on a calm note with a beautiful morning. 

The poet has depicted the gruesome reality of the first-ever nuclear explosion. The bombings were so sudden that people were shocked when it unleashed a situation of complete horror. 

I saw the shadowy forms of people, some
Were ghosts, some scarecrows, all were wordless dumb –
Arms stretched straight out, shoulder to dangling hand

Human Goodness
Despite intense suffering and chaos, the goodness in human nature does not vanish. There is hope for care and concern in the attitude of the doctor who bleeds and is scared but calls out for his wife. He thinks of his staff but finds himself helpless-

It dawned on us we must
Get to the hospital: we needed aid –
And I should help my staff too. (Though this made
Sense to me then, I wonder how I could)
 

 

Setting of the Poem A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945

The poem is set in the city of Hiroshima in Japan the day when allied forces dropped the atom bomb on the city in an attempt to force the Japanese emperor to surrender and end the Second World War. The poet has used the setting to describe the horror unleashed by the dropping of the first ever nuclear bomb. 

The explosion caused thermal radiation that burned the surroundings with extreme heat. The poet has used the setting to describe the utter shock experienced by the people that made them speechless and unable to cry in spite of their suffering and pain.
 

 

Narration Style of  A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945

Vikram Seth employs a powerful narration style in this poem to create an emotional impact. 

The poem is written entirely in the first person, from the doctor’s perspective. This poem is in the form of a journal entry made by a doctor who witnessed and survived the bombing of Hiroshima. This puts the reader directly in the doctor’s shoes, experiencing the events firsthand.

Form
The poem is written in free verse, meaning it does not follow a strict rhyme scheme.
 

 

Poetic Devices in  A Doctor’s Journal Entry for August 6, 1945

Imagery

 The poet’s use of vivid and evocative imagery paints a stark picture of the devastation:

  • The “Strong flash” and “Magnesium flares” symbolize the blinding intensity of the explosion.
  • The collapsing roof and walls represent the destruction of physical structures and safety.
  • The presence of severed body parts, such as the head, illustrates the random and horrifying nature of the disaster.

 

Metaphor
This poetic device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas. In this poem, survivors are compared to “ghosts” and “scarecrows” emphasizing their lifeless appearance and the extent of their injuries.

I saw the shadowy forms of people, some
Were ghosts, some scarecrows, all were wordless dumb

Enjambment
Enjambment: Many lines run on without punctuation, further emphasizing the doctor’s breathless state and the relentless unfolding of horrors.

 “Stumbling to the street
 We fell, tripped by something at our feet.”

Alliteration
Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound.  “Of shimmering leaves and shadows. Suddenly.” 

Personification
Personification is where a non-human / non-living thing is given human characteristics.
“The morning stretched calm.” Here, the morning is personified.
 

 

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