The Disordered World of Snow Falling on Cedars
Snow Falling on Cedars is a text that examines both human nature and the nature of truth. It is presented the closed world of San Peidro Island and the even more closed world of Amity Harbour Courthouse. The beauty of the novel and movie is that they portrait real life and real emotions. Snow Falling on Cedars exists in a disordered world, but this world is no more disordered than real life.
The story uses a type of parallel plot structure. One story involves the quest for the truth about the court case – did Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American, kill Carl Heine, a German-American? The other story involves the search for meaning in the life of Ishmael Chambers, the main character who is involved in the majority of flashbacks.
The life inside the courthouse is presented as being structured and neat - the courthouse is considered to be an ordered place. Everyone has his or her place and role within the court. There are the witnesses, the defendant, the defence counsel, the prosecution, the judge and all other court personnel. Everything appears to be working as it should.
In a traditional courtroom drama, the characters are one dimensional, and a merely there to advance the plot of the murder trial. However, David Guterson skilfully uses flashbacks to explore the real emotions and feelings of the characters in order to make Snow Falling on Cedars an in-depth and meaningful exploration of the human condition. It is the flashbacks that Ishmael, Kabuo and the other characters experience, which betrays their true feelin...
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...el reveals the evidence he discovered at the shipping headquarters, throwing court procedure into disarray and the charges against Kabuo are dismissed. Here, the ordered world of the court is shown to be superficial and quite delicately maintained.
Snow Falling on Cedars is gingerly placed inside the Courtroom Drama sub-genre. Essentially, it is a courtroom drama that is not really about a court case. Snow Falling on Cedars concerns itself with exposing the truth about human nature and emotions; specifically prejudice, love and hate. It uses the trial of Kabuo Miyamoto to carry the story forward and expose these ugly truths. Like real life, the world of Snow Falling on Cedars is disordered. The very thing that is supposed to be the epitome of order, the court, is actually a façade - hiding the disorder of individual prejudice, emotion and fate.
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