Japanese American History and the Movie Snow Falling on Cedars

Japanese American History and the Movie Snow Falling on Cedars

Length: 1635 words (4.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Japanese American History and the Movie Snow Falling on Cedars

The author of Snow Falling on Cedars did a good job with his research into the first to middle half of the 20th century experiences of Japanese immigrants. Unfortunately, like most movies based on extensive books, I believe this movie may underachieve in representing the author’s intentions. This movie seems almost as an outline to what it should be. The major problem area is with portraying the emotions between characters. For example, the bond between Ishmael Chambers and Hatsue Miyamoto seems significant at first, but does not seem to be as painstakingly hard to break as they try to represent towards the end. Also, hints of prejudice are revealed in various places through out the movie, but they fail to represent the attitudes that were more prevalent during the era.

The first trace of good research for the movie is realized with the fact that it takes place on a fictional island near Puget Sound, Washington. This is an acceptable setting because Japanese immigration into the U.S. was focused mainly on the West Coast. Also, depicting the Japanese as grape farmers represents the fact that most of the immigrants moved to rural areas and 40% of them were farmers by 1940 (213).*
Japanese immigration rose in 1882 after the Chinese Exclusion Act. This was in part to fill the gaps in the labor supply. These Japanese in turn were discriminated against. Much of the American prejudice against the Japanese was carried over from feelings about the Chinese. The ideas were that the Japanese were racially inferior, cruel, crafty, and threatening (222). It is also apparent by social distance scales that extreme prejudice existed at the time against the Japanese. In 1946 they ranked at the very bottom of the list, even under the more traditionally stigmatized groups such as the Mexican Americans, African Americans, and other racially identifiable groups (38).
The movie does a good job of representing the social distance between the Japanese and White Americans. It makes it apparent that there is not much interaction between the two segments of the adult population. This most likely stems from the fact that during the time most Japanese immigrants functioned in the rural economic enclaves based on agriculture. This limited secondary structural assimilation, and thus primary structural assimilation.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Japanese American History and the Movie Snow Falling on Cedars." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Nov 2019

Need Writing Help?

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

Check your paper »

Essay on The Disordered World of Snow Falling on Cedars

- 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....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
911 words (2.6 pages)

Essay on Racism Toward Japanese-Americans in the Film, Snow Falling on Cedars

- Racism Towards Japanese-Americans in the Film, Snow Falling on Cedars Snow Falling on Cedars, co-directed by Scott Hicks and Ron Bass, is a film set in 1950 on the fictional island of San Piedro, north of Puget Sound in Washington. The film depicts the abhorrent attitude and actions of Caucasians toward Japanese-Americans in the early 1940's during the time of World War II. Based on the novel by David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars is primarily set on the murder investigation of Kazuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American accused of killing a Caucasian fisherman, Carl Heine as "an act of revenge" (Stratton 16)....   [tags: Snow Falling on Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
5197 words (14.8 pages)

Comparing Novel and Film Version of Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

- Comparing Novel and Film Version of Snow Falling on Cedars It is no easy task to create a work - through writing or film - that has an impact on society. In writing, one must discuss and analyze a relevant topic that will have an impact on the readers. One must also present stunning sensory images through words in order to create a complete understanding for the reader. In filmmaking it is not much different, but there must be striking visual imagery in combination with a fitting musical score in order to give the viewer of the film the full experience....   [tags: Movie Film comparison compare contrast]

Research Papers
2273 words (6.5 pages)

Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

- Snow Falling on Cedars Everyone has experienced prejudice sometime in their life. It has been an undeniable force in society ever since history was recorded. Even the most open-minded people and enlightened organizations can be blamed as being prejudice sometime or another. However, prejudice always takes its toll from these people who form opinions beforehand or without any facts. The novel, Snow Falling On Cedars, take place during a time in which Americans are prejudice towards Japanese people....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars Japanese Essays]

Research Papers
1127 words (3.2 pages)

Essay about David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars

- David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars The years 1940 through 1955 portray a time in America’s history when many Americans harbored a strong fear and distrust for Americans of Japanese descent. A closer look at this dark period for America reveals how the fictional character Kabou Miyamoto, in David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars could easily have been presumed guilty of murder simply because of his Japanese ancestry. Historical documentation can be related to the events in the novel to help explain the mindsets of the characters and to understand why the town suspects Kabou of this crime and then precedes to issue a charge of guilty....   [tags: Japanese History Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1730 words (4.9 pages)

Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

- Snow Falling on Cedars The book Snow Falling on Cedars is about a Japanese man Kabuo Miyanmoto who is on trial for murder. He is accused of murdering a white man, Carl Heine. Much of the story is told through the memories of various characters. It is set in the 1050's in Puget Sound on a fictional island called San Piedro. I think Snow Falling on Cedars was an excellent book. I felt that the author was able to present an unbiased view of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Free Essays
508 words (1.5 pages)

Essay on Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

- 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....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars David Guterson]

Free Essays
1357 words (3.9 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)

Essay on Racial Prejudice in David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars

- Racial Prejudice in David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars 'It's not one ocean,' said Hatsue. 'It's four oceans...They're different from each other.' 'Well how are they different?' 'They just are.' (Guterson 97). Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson's award winning novel, is set on an island in Puget Sound in the early 1950's. It is a story of the racial prejudice that was felt so strongly against Japanese Americans immediately before, during and after WWII. Kabuo Miyamoto, the man accused of murdering Carl Heine, would never have received a fair trail, had it not been for Ishmael's late introduction of crucial evidence and Judge Fielding's morally right choice....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1776 words (5.1 pages)

True Meaning of Love Revealed in Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

- True Meaning of Love Revealed in Snow Falling on Cedars       David Guterson's novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, is one that covers a number of important aspects in life, including some controversial topics like racism and the Japanese internment during America's involvement in the Second World War. It speaks to this reader on a more immediate and personal level, however, through the playing out of Ishmael and Hatsue's relationship-one which Hatsue seems to be able to walk away from, but which shapes the way Ishmael tries to "live" his life because he cannot let go of the past, or a future that is not, and was not meant to be....   [tags: Snow Falling Cedars Essays]

Research Papers
1131 words (3.2 pages)

Related Searches

Furthermore, the movie shows that the kids do not integrate on the school bus. Although social distancing occurs between the kids, some of the main characters break from the societal norms. Carl Heine and Kazuo Miyamoto are friends as kids, but they separate at adulthood. This is a prime example of culture-based prejudice theories that link prejudice to being raised in a racist society.

Some of the only attempts by the movie to demonstrate overt racism are through comments made in the trial by the lawyer Alvin Hooks. For example, when Alvin cross-examines Kazuo he says, “You have no answer? You sit there in silence, with no expression. You're a hard man to trust, sir...” This represents the stereotype at the time that the Japanese were expressionless and cold. Alvin even attempts to play along racist lines with his closing statement, “Look into his eyes...consider his face...ask yourself...What is my duty...As an American?”

The bus scene after the Pearl Harbor attacks where the bus driver harasses the Japanese students with comments about the FBI searching for “Jap” traders is a great example of overt racism. The scene is especially important in demonstrating that this period of time is when racism against the Japanese immigrants dramatically increased. The increased discrimination is also demonstrated when Ishmael exclaims, “Fucking Jap bitch!” after his arm in sawed off. Many White American soldiers developed the same opinions of Japanese Americans during the war.

The movie further portrays the movement of West Coast Japanese immigrants to internment camps. The movie demonstrates that the camps are overcrowded when Hatsue’s dad Hisao is writing a letter to them in a large gymnasium with many bunk beds. Also, it depicts the lack of privacy when Hatsue and Kazuo do not have a private room on their wedding night. Furthermore, Carl’s mother Etta Heine undercuts Kazuo’s family by selling their land before they could complete the payments. This demonstrates the abrupt evacuation procedures that left Japanese immigrants with few of their possessions.

Overall, the movie did not seem to focus on these scenes well enough. In fact, the whole movie does not seem to focus on the topics strongly enough and leaves the viewer with the feeling that it is just the shell of a movie. Dabs of racist expressions here and flashes of life in the internment camp life there accomplish encompassing a wide variety of issues, but do not demonstrate each issue well. Shindler's List is an example of a movie that successfully captures the human experiences of a minority group, albeit the conditions were more shocking.

Another fine detail demonstrated by the movie was with the fact that Kazuo fought in WWII for the U.S. At this time 25,000 of the 110,000 Japanese Americans volunteered for military service thus allowing them to escape life in the internment camps (214).

An interesting aspect of the movie is with Etta Heine who is German. This does a good job of contrasting the experiences faced by different immigrant groups up to the mid 20th century. The Germans were part of the first wave of immigration, or Old Immigration. These immigrants had more human capital, were not racially identifiable, and were similar to White Americans in aspects of color and religion. Additionally, they settled in sparsely populated areas where they did not compete with White Americans (87). Most rejection of German immigrants faded with the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans, and probably to almost extinction with the immigration of the Chinese and Japanese. The movie showed that the Germans were well off relative to the Japanese. The Heine’s were in the position of selling land to Kazuo’s. Also, it is interesting to note that the German Americans were not sent to internment camps since the U.S. was also fighting the Germans during WWII.

Etta clearly discriminated against Kazuo. She used her dominant position to exploit their situation and make more money on the land. The competitive relationship is reminiscent of the fact that Germans were able to join labor unions in the early 20th century where as some other minority groups were not (89). Competition in agriculture between Japanese immigrants and White Americans led to the Alien Land Act by 1913. This law made it illegal for non-citizens to own land. Also, Japanese immigrants could not become citizens. The movie demonstrates this law in trial when Hooks mentions, “…we all know it's against the law for Japanese-born to own land.” It also shows how the Japanese successfully worked around the law. Kazuo can own the land because he was born in America and is therefore an American citizen.

Kazuo and Hatsue were a part of the 2nd generation of Japanese Americans known as Nisei. They were more culturally and somewhat more structurally assimilated than their parents the Issei. The Issei still taught their kids traditional Japanese values. The film makes this apparent when Hatsue’s mother Fujiko teaches her how to sit and do her hair. Hatsue’s frustration with the social situation is apparent when she exclaims, “I don't want to be Japanese.”

The movie stops with Japanese American depiction at this point, but it is interesting to note their continued history. The Nisei were successful in school, but discrimination kept them from leaving the enclave. After the war, the enclave did not reappear. Some Nisei took advantage of the GI Bill to further their education. Anti-Asian discrimination declined and by 1960 the Japanese Americans were similar to White Americans in their occupational profile. Many chose professional careers that were “safe” and required less contact with the public.

The Sansei and Yonsei, the 3rd and 4th generations respectfully, became further culturally assimilated and more so structurally integrated. Their success in America is likely due to their educational achievements that put them at the same levels as White Americans by as early as 1920 (231). The Jim Crow laws of school segregation that affected African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans did not affect Japanese Americans.

Japanese have become quite acculturated to U.S. society for a few reasons. First of all, many of the Japanese are born in the U.S. The number of foreign-born Japanese Americans was only 34% in 1990 (219). Therefore, they lack the infusion of Japanese culture from Japan that groups such as Mexican Americans receive from their country of origin. Also, Japanese American acculturation is very apparent in the primary sector and is visible with their intermarriage rate of 34% that is much higher than the 2% for African Americans (227).

Other Asian American groups are not quite successful as the Japanese and Chinese Americans. Their struggles are possibly overshadowed with the success of these groups and go ignored. These new groups lack the same solid base that Japanese and Chinese Americans have built over 150 years. Also, some have lower educational levels. In fact Vietnamese have educational attainments comparable to those of African Americans (225)

Snow Falling on Cedars makes a valid attempt at encompassing the situation of Japanese immigrants in the early to mid 20th century. American society tends to comb over the harsh realities of the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII and their successive removal to internment camps. This film is one of the first and hopefully not the last efforts in raising this issue. Although the film is factually sound, these issues are almost an aside. Americans need to be further exposed to this dark aspect of past policies. It may be hard to swallow, but they can take it.
Return to 123HelpMe.com