The Assault & Black Rain Comparative Chart

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Shared Aspect


Black Rain

The Assault

-Overcoming/not overcoming the main incident of the war(s) 

-Theme: importance of dealing with/facing the past

-Shigematsu, Yasuko, Shigeko and Iwatake kept journals on the bombings

-The journals were used to recount the past and move on/overcome the terrors of the bombs. By individually keeping these journals, the characters were able to stay optimistic about the future, because they had faced what happened in the past

-The collaboration of the journals for the history book (as well as for Yasuko’s go-between) further shows that they were able to overcome the awful events because they were able to retell them without breaking down

-Positive judgment of theme (Erica)


-“Anton, about to throw the dice, froze and looked at his mother” (16). “He noticed that he was still holding one of the dice in his hand and put it in his pocket” (19).

-The dice were used to symbolically represent the fact that Anton held on to things, pushed them in the back of his mind and refused to face them

-The dice reappear as his past does, which he tries to ignore

-“He stuck it [his hand] into his pocket, where he touched something he could not place. He looked: it was one of the dice” (52).

-Anton sees dice pattern on a lighter>>> has  panic attack>>> cannot take/face the past (155)

-When he saw a mirror with some dice like spot >>> “The black eyes of the dice! He knew that he should control himself, and breathe regularly, so it wouldn’t get the better of him” (156).

-Inability to deal with/face the past

-Negative judgment (Erica)


Duality/ 2 sides to everything


-Although there is an anti-war theme, optimism comes up over and again

-“I glanced at the calendar with its message for the day. ‘Never say die,’ it said” (84).

-“ ‘All right,’ I told myself. ‘So everything’s kid’s play. All the more reason, then, to throw yourself into it whole heartedly. Do you get it now? No throwing in the sponge!’ ” (88).

-By including these 2 quotes, it shows how on one side, things could be really bad, but there can be a better, more optimistic outlook. (Erica)




-high contrast, but they are often used together

-“Hate is the darkness, that’s no good. And yet we’ve got to hate Fascists and that’s considered perfectly right. How is that possible? It’s because we hate them in the name of the light, I guess, whereas they hate only in the name of darkness” (38).

-On page 39, Truus is talking about the light inside people when they are in love. “There’s a man who loves me and finds me very beautiful, which I’m not at all, really. He’s the beautiful one, though in many ways, he’s terribly ugly.”

-2 sides…light:  hate is ok and the light you get from being in love makes you beautiful … EVEN THOUGH in the dark: hate is bad and without that light from love, you’re not so good looking (Erica)

The presence of plants/trees in a setting (reflection of the people/insight as to mood of setting)

- At the beginning of the novel (after the defeat), bamboo first appears as a symbol of  determination and fight to the bitter end. (13)

- There is talk about the Kemponashi tree, which is a symbol of nobility/dignity. (43)

- There are many instances in which bamboo served as a lifesaver for people, like the lady who made a raft out of it and the lady who used it to put out the flames. (84)

- The camphor trees at Kokutaiji Temple, which must have been easily six feet in diameter , had all three been uprooted and had fallen to the ground, where they lay, burned through and carbonized but still preserving the shape of the trees (99)

- In Tera-maci, the trees had torn limbs and exposed naked wood, still some had vanished.

- The bomb encouraged the growth of plants, while putting a stop to human lives, but the bomb also helped the human to grow in a different way. (191)

- Just before the announcement by the emperor, Shigematsu noticed in the courtyard a cluster of tall plants with a few different ones that stood out here and there. (296) (Jessica Z.)


- At the beginning of the novel, in the introduction, Anton explains the setting in which he lived. He grew up playing in a field with lots of greenery. His mom would sometimes forget to call him in and he compares his later life to that of his forgotten self as a child, it was to be forgotten, mysterious and endless. (4)

- When Anton first visits his home after the incident, he notes the trees and weeds around it, just like the unplowed and forgotten lands in France. From the spot where the car sat before he was taken away (when he felt alone) sparrows in small trees were present as he gazed at the remains of his former house. (63)

- Following Takes outside, they pass through the cemetery where he notices the flowers with the cards. In the shade of a tree, he shakes hands with Takes, whom we later find out also feels alone and forgotten. (110)

- When Anton took Sandra to the monument with the names of his parents, who he has tried to put aside. The monument’s statue was surrounded by rhododendrons and blossoms. The monument was endless.(160)

- Sandra went and bought a blue rose for Truus’ grave, she was both endless and forgotten. (161) (Jessica Z.)


References to religion (condemning it).


- While Shigematsu was walking he ran into an older lady praying, while all around her he noted naked bodies and dead people. (45)

- Shigematsu was walking and wanted water so he drank some but gargled three times, sub-consciously, in honor of the god of water. This seems silly and discredits religion. (48)

- The author talks about the placement of lanterns in the river to call attention to he gods for protection against floods, this tradition seems almost silly, which in a reflection of the religion. (55)

- When Shigematsu goes to get the sermons froe the priest, he comments on the weakness of the priest, this I think symbolizes the weakness of religion. (133)

- When Shigeko went buy moxa, on the packaging there was a picture of the god of agriculture with a leaf between his teeth. This is a way of making fun of religion. (210) (Jessica Z.)


- Truus is talking about love and light and comments that Christians are Christians and that they are not always right, we later grow to like Truus a lot, this leads to negative feelings towards Christians. (38)

- When Anton goes to visit the Beumers, he notices a twisted crucifix, this is negative imagery about religion. (65)

- Mrs. Beumer comments that the gods ways are unfathomable and questions why they made “the assault” happen in front of Anton’s house. They question god. (71)

- Fake Ploeg Jr. tells Anton that as a result of his father’s death, he had to go to a Catholic boarding school even though he wasn’t Catholic, a miserable experience for him. (87)

- Takes is talking to Anton and says that God doesn’t exist, this is a man who Anton coems to for answers. Is this an answer to religion? (112)

- Takes doesn’t seem to like Catholics as he associates them with “keeping their hands clean.” (134)

- Mr. Korteweg had the body placed in front of Anton’s house, instead of the younger neighbors because they were hiding three people, who fled because of , religion, so in a way, religion led to the death of his family? (183) (Jessica Z.)


Structure of the ending of characters and how it relates to the past/characters and their inability to escape the past

- Yasuko realizes that she has radiation sickness later in the book although early on it is rumored.

- Yasuko is comforted by the old, tactful man who makes her forget about her sickness instead of confronting it. (228) (Alex)


- Yasuko is haunted by the awful rumor that she was working in the Secondary Middle School Kitchens when the bomb fell and that she might be a victim of radiation sickness.

- Yasuko is constantly reminded of her status every time they look for someone to marry her.  (Gloria)


- Early on Anton refuses to accept that his parents have been killed, and hopes that he will later see them.

- Anton never really deals with the assault on and denies that it affects him the way that it actually does.

- It is not only until later on when he is in Italy that he experiences his first panic attack, which is when he loses control of not only himself but others around him. (Alex)


- Anton is constantly reminded of the assault when he goes back to Haarlem and when he sees Fake.  (Gloria)

The juxtaposition of the beauty and the devastation in war.

- The mushroom cloud is described as a jellyfish dancing in the air. 

- The mushroom cloud is described in various shades of colors, such as red, purple, lapis lazuli, or green

- However, it is also described as a monster ready to pounce.  Also, people scream at the cloud for it to go away.  (Alex)


- While Shigematsu is peering out the window of a cramped, suffocating cattle car, he sees a beautiful scene of nature with chirping birds and a pond

- When Shigematsu passes a pond, he notices that it is filled with dead people.  He also notices that from afar they appear as beds of tulips and chrysanthemums, showing natural beauty in death.

- When Shigematsu serves as a priest, a dead girl is buried with beautiful flowers.  We see beauty in death.

- As Shigematsu wanders the streets after the bombing, he sees a beautiful young woman.  When he sees her, she has an extremely off-putting stench.  Even so, he overlooks the stench because she is so beautiful.  (Sandra)

- The assault is described as beautiful.

- “Briefly a blinding bouquet of fire lit up the drawing room”

- “The pointing flames danced through the overhanging dormer window…”

- But also, hideously.

- “In the rooms where it had been cold for so long, hellfire now reigned.”

- “He stepped forward and began to spray the windows with long, thundering streaks of fire.”  (Alex)


- The beginning of the novel is centered around the death of Ploeg.  When Anton sees the dead body, he also simultaneously notices that Holland’s sky is incredibly clear and the constellations and stars are amazingly bright.

- Anton sees natural beauty when he experiences his first panic attack.

- When Liesbeth returns from market, she sets a piece of meat on the piano.  The paper covering the meat begins to unwrap and it is described as a beautiful flower unfolding.  (Sandra)

The Color White

- When Yasuko first sees the bomb go off, she crouches behind a bolder and unknowingly crushes a small, white flower.  The fact that it is white, which is usually used to portray pure or positive things, and then crushes it, seems to be a bad omen.

- When Shigematsu and his family are waiting on a train, he is pushed against a woman carrying a bundle in a white cloth, which he though strange.  It is a dead child.

- When Shigematsu serves as a Buddhist priest to preside over funerals, the reader sees imagery of white.  Every deceased person is covered with a white cloth.  One young girl is wearing a tattered white shirt.  People insist on paying him with money stuffed in a white packet.  All of these are connected with death, making it seem so negative.

- Shigematsu relays to workers that he saw a white rainbow during his journey.  A person says that it was a bad omen because the next day there was the Feb. 6th incident.  The man also noted that a white rainbow “pierces the sun” is a sign from heaven that there will be a disturbance.  Shigematsu’s culture sees this rainbow as a negative object, making readers think of it negatively. (Sandra)


- Quotes about white on pp. 298, 296, 22, 116, 135.

- White seems to be a sign of bad; represents a bad omen, appears along with death.  (Maggie)

- A servant dressed in white serves Anton and his future father in law.  The scenery is described as tranquil, thus making us feel positive.

- Anton confronts Cor Takes and learns about what happened on the night of the assault.  When they’re finished, his daughter, dressed in white, runs to him and he holds her.  This shows positive imagery for the family.

- Anton dreams about his family’s house before the assault.  During the dream, he focuses on a white fountain.  Anton wishes to remember his house the way it was, so it has positive imagery.

- Anton was detained on the day of the incident with Truus.  When he eventually saw a photo of her, he described the photo as having brilliant white streaks around her head.  This heavenly or saint-like imagery is positive.  (Sandra)


- Quotes about white on pp. 75, 22, 9, 101, 125.

- Here, white often appears along with fire or darkness.  Good or bad?  (Maggie)

Narration by one’s own personal experiences (diary format)

- In Black Rain, Shigematsu is the main narrator .  His diary of the attack made the novel easier to understand.  I could somewhat see myself going through the actual war and going through the hardships that Shigematsu endured.  The author uses Shigematsu’s character to tell the story of WW II firsthand (Note by Mr. McGinn - - is this novel really about ALL of WWII?).

- I think that the fact that Shigematsu is the one telling the story makes it more reliable.  I think that people tend to believe what others have experienced first hand.

- The dates capture even more the attention of the audience.  The usage of dates is clear evidence that the narrator knows what he’s talking about and that the story is true. (Mayra)

- The Assault is narrated by a single person, which is Anton (Note by Mr. McGinn - - this is not technically true.  The narrator is 3rd person omniscient, but we are often seeing things from his perspective.)  Anton is relating his side of the story.  Once again, his information was sort of in the form of a diary (Note: this needs to be explained in much greater depth), which made it much easier to understand.

- The fact that the author chose Anton to relate this story, I think made the novel even more realistic.  I, being part of the audience, believed more in this story just because the story was told by someone who was actually involved in this conflict.  (Mayra)

Theme of Death and Survival

- This novel mainly dealt with death and survival.  This was a novel about war, a war that killed thousands of people, yet many survived.  It can be considered a major theme because Shigematsu’s family is going through this.  Friends have died, yet they have the strength and will power to keep on going, aside from the fact that there is little food, and that Yasuko is dying.

- Death is all around this novel, and I think it is a reminder to all those still living to gather their strength and keep on living.  In other words, life will go on.  I think that death is a symbol of will for those who live and deal with sadness and try to survive this tragedy.  (Mayra)

- This novel also shares the theme of death and survival.  Anton is witness to the tragedy that befell his family.  Although he does not find out that his family were killed that same day, he still goes through many years trying to heal his past from the memories that still haunt him.  He survived because he was not killed, he got a job, and he got married and had children.  This is a way of survival.

- Death also surrounds the life of Anton and it’ a constant reminder that life does go on.  His life did go on, besides the sadness and memories that filled his heart.  Death also plays a role of symbolizing strength for those who need it. (Mayra)

Theme of Anti-War

- Takes place during WW II.

- Innocent civilians killed.

- In the book it talks about religion and religion condemns war.

- The main character’s life is dramatically affected by the war.  (Gloria)


- The theme is seen throughout the novel.

- We see in this novel what war can do to a country.

- We see how the war affected the main character.

- Ibuse condemns war.

- We see in this novel how after war beauty is not so far away.  (Rosa)


- The original assault take place during WW II.

- Anton’s innocent family dies.

- Anton is always mentioning religion and I think that religion would condemn the war.

- The main character’s life is dramatically affected by the war.   (Gloria)


- The theme is seen throughout the novel.

- We see how an incident in WW II completely changed the main character.

- Mulisch condemns war and the effects of it.

- We see that how towards the end of the war beauty is seen throughout the novel.  (Rosa)

Imagery of Fire and Flames

- Repeated throughout the novel.

- We see how they are used throughout the novel.

- We see how they describe destruction and disaster.  (Rosa)


- Imagery of fire is used many times, I think the author uses it to condemn war.

- Fire is inevitable in war and it comes up many times in Black Rain.  The fire is the cause of the deaths of many innocent people.  Detailed descriptions are given.

- Fire is often given animal characteristics as if it were alive.   (Maria)


- Quotes about fire on pp 244, 82, 296.  (Maggie)

- Fire and flames appear throughout the novel.

- We see how they are used throughout the novel.

- Fire and flames describe destruction and disaster.  (Rosa)


- Imagery of fire is used to condemn war.

- Fire is an inevitable part of war and with fire comes death.  In the assault it destroyed Anton’s house, it killed Schulz, and right after the fire Anton’s parents were killed.

- In some cases fire is given animal or human characteristics.  (Maria)


- Anton’s house burning down is compared to a scene at the movie theater.  Perhaps this shows how Anton is suppressing his feelings.  He can’t deal with or comprehend what he is seeing.

- Flames are described as dancing and keeping him warm.  Perhaps he or the narrator sees beauty, even in the destruction.  Fire is also described as bouquet. 

 - Fire is described as greedily consuming an old newspaper. (Angie, Diana, Dan, Alicia, Linda, Kristian, Carlos, Shannon)


- Quotes about fire on pp. 42, 11, and 125 (Maggie)

Water (with fire?) – serving as relief or a form of refreshment?

- Shigematsu fishing at the pond with the carp.

- A sea of flames.

- Burning children running to the river.

- Burning bodies floating on the river.

- Dead man “drinking”

- Black Rain

- Shigematsu standing by the river at the end of the novel as the baby eels swim upstream.

- Family puts pots and pans at the bottom of the pond to keep it safe.

- Dream of fountain at old house.

- Dream about house burning and the house is underwater.

- When he feels as if he is drowning while at the beach with wife #1 and daughter.

- Blue branches growing in the water