Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson The novel Snow Falling on Cedars, written by David Guterson, revolves around a racially charged court case involving an innocent Japanese man accused of the murder of a German fisherman. The author explores the human traditions of war and social division and the inevitability of decay, suffering and death, using the murder trial of Kabuo Miyamoto as a focal point. Guterson investigates the way in which personal ethics can transcend the conspiring effects of ‘fate, coincidence and accident’[1] through the behaviour and disposition of the three main characters of the novel, Ishmael, Hatsue and Kabuo. Kabuo's trial is a continuation of the white community's conflict with its Japanese neighbours. Prejudice is prevalent on San Piedro Island where whites harbour resentment and hostility towards the Japanese ‘aliens’[2], but hypocritically profit from the Japanese-American residents’ discipline and hard work. Generated by the events of World War II, the ‘Japs’[3] are treated with suspicion and scorn. The jurors misinterpret Kabuo’s cold and impassive face as a sign of betrayal and defiance, while to Kabuo it expresses guilt for World War II ‘murders’[4]. Ishmael learns to hate Hatsue after his war experience, because ‘she had the face of America’s enemy and would always have such a face’[5]. However, the Japanese are not merely victims and out of a sense of superiority, they choose to maintain their detachment from American society. Hatsue’s influential mentor Mrs Shigemura has contempt for American culture and warns Hatsue to stay away from the ‘hakujin’[6]. Kabuo distrusts his white neigh... ... middle of paper ... ...ns of war and prejudice. The thoughts and actions of Ishmael, Hatsue and Kabuo combine to illustrate that ‘accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.’[16] --------------------------------------------------------------------- [1]Guterson, David, Snow Falling on Cedars, 1994, pp 367 [2] Ibid., pp 107 [3] “ ” pp 37 [4] “ ” pp 135 [5] “ ” pp 179 [6] “ ” pp 75 [7] “ ” pp 367 [8] “ ” pp 84 [9] “ ” pp 34 [10] Guterson, David, Snow Falling on Cedars, 1994, pp 17 [11] Ibid., pp 148 [12] “ ” pp 148 [13] “ ” pp 179 [14] “ ” pp 368 [15] “ ” pp 353 [16] Guterson, David, Snow Falling on Cedars, 1994, pp 404
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