Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Essay

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Essay

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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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