David Guterson, a young American author, has written two major works
regarding aspects of human nature and human emotions. His first publication, a
collection of short stories, entitled The Country Ahead of Us, The Country
Behind addresses some of the moral dilemmas that humans face throughout their
lives. His first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, narrates the trial of a
Japanese man accused of murdering a white man in the post World War II era.
Throughout his literary works, Guterson uses elements of nature: land, trees,
water and especially snow, as literal and metaphorical tools to develop and
David Guterson uses the same aspects and characteristics of nature in
two different ways. First he describes in visual detail the literal or actual
effects that elements of nature have on the characters in the story. But more
importantly Guterson uses nature to convey substantial and symbolic meaning in
the lives of the characters in his stories.
One of the elements of nature that Guterson uses as a tool to develop
the conflicts in Snow Falling on Cedars are the strawberry fields on the island.
These fields represent an important source of income for the community.
Traditionally the Japanese laborers worked the fields and the white Americans
owned the fields. The question of the ownership of seven acres of strawberry
fields serves as the apparent motive for the murder of Carl Heine. To a local
Japanese fisherman, Kabuo (accused of murdering Carl Heine), the ownership of
this land promises a secure future and ultimately independence. “...she knew
that Kabuo wanted a strawberry field.. nothing more than that” (Snow Falling 89).
“His dream...was close to him now, his strawberry land, his happiness” (Snow
Falling 456). The strawberry fields connected Kabuo to his past and symbolized
a continuity of life. “My father planted the fathers of these (strawberry)
plants” (Snow Falling 362).
Guterson also uses snow metaphorically to make the ownership of the
strawberry fields disappear and seem unimportant in life (Snow covering the
fields permitted the reader to veiw the ownership of the fields as a very
materialistic and selfish thing). After the snow has fallen it acts as a
purifier to a...
... middle of paper ...
...nd. The snow
changes in these scenes in the story as Guterson
Snow is also one of the elements that can also be traced through
Guterson's earlier works. In “Angels in the Snow” Guterson uses snow in the
very same way that he uses snow as a metaphor in his novel. “Angels in the Snow”
is a short story about the struggle for a man to maintain a truthful marriage
with his wife. In this story the snow that falls on Christmas eve symbolizes
the falling apart of his marriage due to unsurpassable problems. “Outside the
window a light snow blew down... in the yard the grass looked sprinkled with
powder”(Angels 3). Guterson weaves a tale about moralistic troubles that began
in a young man's fragile past. “Outside, the snow covered the last of the lawn.
The world looked hushed, delicate and beautiful.” ( Angels 7) This passage
describes the delicate remembrances of the protagonist's youthful days. And
then, “outside the falling snowflakes looked larger...a low drift was forming...”
( Angels 12). This statement is offered as Guterson's main character begins to
confront his past conflicts.
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