Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Length: 1357 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson


Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson gives readers an idea of what it was like to be Japanese in the 1940’s and 50’s. In our nation at that time, much of the population felt that Japanese and Japanese Americans could not be trusted. Americans did not like the immigrants coming here and taking jobs that were once theirs. Last, of course, the evacuation and containment of the Japanese and even Japanese American citizens made it clear that America did not trust them.

Prejudice against Japanese and Japanese Americans was most prominent in the western states, more specifically California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada. These also happen to be the states most populated by people of Japanese descent. The disproportion can be seen in a poll taken in December of 1942 by the American Institute of Public Opinion. When asked “Do you think the Japanese who were moved inland from the Pacific Coast should be allowed to return to the Pacific Coast when the war is over?” Seventeen percent nationally said they “Would allow none to return,” whether they were citizens or not. In the western states, nearly twice as many felt this way, an astonishing 31 percent (Merrick 207). This data does not show, however, whether the inlanders were less prejudiced or merely wanted to send the Japanese back to the West. It seems the war was an excuse to lock these people away for a while. Discrimination existed long before the war began with a swift attack on Pearl Harbor. Interestingly, Hawaii had few racial problems, despite being at the site of the devastation.

People often fear what they do not understand. Why did Germans and Italians not experience such distinct discrimination? European culture is fairly similar to American culture; it is, after all, where most of American culture and inhabitants came from. The Japanese, on the other hand, have severely different customs than the United States, customs that must have been hard for people to understand or value. Many White people saw the quiet reserve of the Japanese descendants as an indication of a cold, heartless, unfeeling person. To Caucasians, dark faces with slanted eyes were something they could not understand; and therefore, could not trust.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Nov 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=30222>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

- David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars Snow Falling on Cedars, a novel written by David Guterson, depicts the struggles that many Japanese-Americans faced in our country throughout World War II. Though the events and characters in this novel are fictional, the manor in which they were treated was not. Ever since the tragedy of December 7, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese people throughout the United States were seen as traitors through the eyes of Americans. Every Japanese, whether or not they were a natural born citizen or an illegal alien, were all treated as a possible threat to the safety and well being of the United States....   [tags: Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson Essays]

Research Papers
1389 words (4 pages)

Essay David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars

- David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars The beginning of World War II caused many Americans to spawn a deep hatred against anyone of Japanese decent. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, fear of the Japanese emerged in hearts all across America. White Americans felt threatened by Japan. The fear of Japan created a fear of its people and this fear created severe prejudice against anyone who looked like the “enemy.” During the war, and for many years after, Japanese Americans were victims of this fear....   [tags: David Guterson Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1245 words (3.6 pages)

Critical Response to David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

- Critical Response to David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson's novel Snow Falling on Cedars undoubtedly holds high acclaim in its reputable attempt to show the prejudice between the Americans and Japanese after World War II and more importantly the prejudice that is unavoidably apart of human nature. The author of the criticism recognizes and brings to light the things done by Guterson throughout the novel. He refers to the animosity between people brought about by differences, the unwillingness to accept change, and also states that things end in a moral and justified manner....   [tags: David Guterson Snow Falling on Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1242 words (3.5 pages)

Kabuo Assumed Guilty Because of Japanese Heritage in Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

- Kabuo Assumed Guilty Because of Japanese Heritage in Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson In the novel, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, Kabuo Miyamoto is arrested for murder without any substantial evidence. He was charged with a crime he did not commit. He was accused based strictly on his race. Kabuo’s trial was unfair because there was racial conflict with the Japanese following World War II. The racial conflict with Japanese-Americans began when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars David Guterson Essays]

Free Essays
1339 words (3.8 pages)

David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars Essay examples

- David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars The early 1940’s were tough times for many Japanese living in America. This is all due to the Japanese and American conflict in World War II, after Japan decided to bomb Pearl Harbor. After this incident many Japanese-Americans were discriminated against and were thought of as bad Japanese instead of the Americans they were. A lot of these Japanese-Americans were unfairly sent to internment camps in the United States. This is also true of the incidents that take place in the fictional novel Snow Falling On Cedars, by David Guterson....   [tags: Guterson Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1063 words (3 pages)

David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars: Racism in the Law Essay

- David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars: Racism in the Law Throughout history mankind as a whole has been afraid of things that were different. This is especially true in a world so rich in racial diversity. People are afraid of those who look different, speak different, or act differently than they do. The award-winning novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson shows just how difficult it can be to live in a society that discriminates against those who are different and stereotyped based on other people’s actions....   [tags: Guterson Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1888 words (5.4 pages)

David Guterson's Snow Falling on a Race Essay examples

- David Guterson's Snow Falling on a Race The novel Snow Falling on Cedars, written by David Guterson, is about the events that occurred during Pearl Harbor. The novel focuses on the trials and tribulations that the Japanese race had to deal with in America. During the war there were many American concentration camps that held Japanese and Japanese-Americans. The novel is about a Japanese man who is on trial for a murder that he did not commit. The novel exploits all of the fallacies of Japanese treatment, which nearly led to the conviction of an innocent man....   [tags: Racism Japanese Japan Guterson Essays]

Research Papers
1331 words (3.8 pages)

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Essay

- 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....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
889 words (2.5 pages)

Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson Essay

- Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson When the leaves pile up, it creates a dense, and heavy load that only disperses after the climatic events of a storm. In the novel, Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson, Kabuo, a Japanese fisherman, is on trial for the murder of a caucasian fisherman. There is much racism on the small island of San Piedro between its Japanese and American inhabitants and the trial makes that evident. There is a snowstorm throughout the trial and the snow that continues to pile up represents the tension that is building up in the courtroom between the two cultures and it's people....   [tags: Papers]

Research Papers
548 words (1.6 pages)

Essay on Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

- Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Roger Daniels plainly states that “the racist tradition … has long been a central theme of all American history” (143). In this bold, yet blatantly truthful extract, Daniels describes how Caucasian Americans are quick to embitter because of other ethnicities. In his work, Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson brings the harsh realities of prejudice to light. The setting of his work is Washington state in the post-world-war-two era. The victim of western United States injustice was nearly anyone with Japanese ancestry....   [tags: Japanese Discrimination Racism Essays]

Research Papers
1363 words (3.9 pages)

Related Searches

On top of the misunderstanding, the United States, a land of immigrants, has never been very welcoming to immigrants of any race. When people first come to this country they often will work for the minimalist of wages, thus leaving the higher wage “natives” without jobs. Unemployment was not a problem for long though, over one thousand Japanese citizens and aliens lost their jobs within a day of Pearl Harbor (Oakie 25).

As war drew nearer, the American public was filled with propagandist ideas, characterizing the Japanese as sly and untrustworthy. These films and brochures did not show the enormous amounts of Japanese Americans who signed up to fight for the United States of America against her enemies, even against Japan. To the American people, the Japanese American citizens looked just like the faces at the cinema, in comic books, newspapers and pamphlets.

Last, the most obvious discrimination against Japanese and Japanese Americans was the war relocation effort. Japanese were removed from “military areas” (spanning the whole state of California and then some) and detained in internment camps, without having committed any crime, without any charges against them. They were not granted hearings, or due process. They were detained solely because they had Japanese ancestors (Korematsu 1). In the 1943 case of Gordon Hirabayashi, the court states, “We cannot close our eyes to the fact, demonstrated by experience, that in time of war residents having ethnic affiliations with an invading enemy may be a greater source of danger than those of a different ancestry” (McWilliams 163).

By the end of 1942, the shortage of workers resulting from the absence of Japanese labor became so great that 9,000 detainees were released to work in agriculture, where they were commended for their hard work in rescuing the crops. This is quite a variation from Idaho Governor Chase Clark ‘s comments in May or 1942. He said, “The Japs live like rats, breed like rats, and act like rats” (McWilliams 163-4). California, however, must have still clung to this belief. In order to avoid using evacuee labor, they imported 30,000 Mexican Nationals (165).

The prejudice evident in the U.S. was much like the prejudice in Snow Falling on Cedars. Kabuo Miyamoto is presumed guilty by the jurors because he is not a man that can be trusted; he has a guilty face that shows no expression. The whole issue starts with coroner Horace Whaley’s statement to “start looking for a Jap with a bloody gun butt” upon inspecting a wound to the deceased’s head (Guterson 59). He also makes a comment to Sheriff Art Moran about “playing Sherlock Holmes.” This comment really gets to the Sheriff and puts pressure on him to find some culprit, or some scapegoat, and confirm his skills as sheriff. His feeble search leads him to Kabuo Miyamoto.

Throughout the book are examples of the poor treatment of Japanese Americans. In the courtroom, there was no written law directing Asians to the rear seats, but the community required it nonetheless. In the last census, the counter had failed to even take their proper names; he listed them by nicknames or numbers (Guterson 75).

As for the legal aspects, the Japanese could not own land, because “the law said they could not own land unless they became citizens; it also said they could not become citizens so long as they were Japanese” (Guterson 76). Zenhichi had done the best he could to obtain land that his son Kabuo, an American born Nisei, could someday own, but his plans were ruined when his family was swept away to the Manzanar internment camp. Because of this he lost his land, his house, and his job. This also stirred up public disapproval of the Japanese. If their country did not trust them, why should its people? After his release, Kabuo enlisted to fight for the very country that had kidnapped him from his home, he felt he had to in order to prove his loyalty (92).

Hatred was present, not only in the government, but in many of the citizens as well. Arthur Chambers supported the Japanese Americans in his newspaper and often cited their good works even more than their Caucasian counterparts. This was a great risk for him to take and it cost him several nasty letters and 15 cancelled subscriptions (Guterson 191). His wife felt “It’s a shame, I have to think it’s a travesty. That they arrested him because he’s Japanese” (343). The Japanese had a few people on their side, but there were still those throwing rocks through the windows. Lastly, the prosecution attorney, Alvin Hooks, appeals to the prejudice in the jurors he knows is there, asking them to “look into [Kabuo’s] eyes, consider his face” (415).

A bad set of circumstances brings Kabuo to trial, but juror’s prejudice almost convicts him of a crime that didn’t happen. The jurors did not understand their Japanese neighbors; did not trust them. Their heads had been filled with propagandist ideas, and they had seen how they looked just like the enemy invading our country. The relocation camps had expired, but here was a chance to put one more away. Why not then, get rid of one more threat to society? Snow Falling on Cedars gives us a realistic look into life of the fictional Kabuo Miyamoto; a man with a guilty face.

Works Cited

Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

“Korematsu v. United States: Murphy Dissenting.” 14 April 2002
<http://www.tourolaw.edu/patch/Korematsu/murphy.html >

McWilliams, Carey. Prejudice: Japanese-Americans: Symbol of Racial
Intolerance. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1945.

Merrick van Patten, Louise. “Public Opinion on Japanese Americans.”
Far Eastern Survey 1 Aug. 1945, 14.15:207-208. JSTOR. Clemson
University, Cooper Library. 15 April 2002 <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=
0362-8949%2819450801%2914%3A15%3C207%3APOOJA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D>

Oakie, John H. “Japanese in the United States.” Far Eastern Survey 26 Jan.
1942, 11.2:23-26. JSTOR. Clemson University, Cooper Library. 15 April 2002
<http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0362-8949%2819420126%2911%3
A2%3C23%3AJITUS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D>
Return to 123HelpMe.com