Snow Falling on Cedars: Book Analysis

True love’s course is derailed by the rippling wake of prejudice in Snow Falling on Cedars. In this very well written novel, we are reminded of the sheer destructive force of unjustified hatred. David Guterson brings to life a romance that seems so destined to be, just to have it ruined by social turmoil. It plays to a sympathetic heart that so much is lost because of the shape of one’s face. “Look at my face,” interrupted Hatsue. “Look at my eyes, Ishmael.

My face is the face of the people who did it-don’t you see what I mean? My face-it’s how the Japanese look. ” (Guterson, p. 139) This paper will focus on three characters whose lives in this story are changed forever in the face of fear, panic, and above all racism. The setting takes place in the Pacific Northwest, an island named San Piedro, which is set off the coast of the state of Washington. It is a close knit community with a large concentration of Japanese immigrants. They, like many small islands have a large fishing community, but they also have good land for farming.

We Will Write a Custom Case Study Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

The time frame ranges from the late 1930’s, through World War Two, and up to the year 1954. The setting, especially the time, is an extremely crucial integral part of the entire story’s relevance when investigating the prejudicial aspects. As during all time periods, Guterson’s characters have their own unique outlooks and views. Some characters go with the social norms by treating Japanese people unfairly, as if they were able to change who they were. Some white residents went to Joinson 2 cruel lengths to alienate people who had, just as they had, come to America seeking opportunity.

Thirty-nine Japanese worked at Port Jefferson mill, but the census taker neglected to list them by name, referring to the as Jap Number 1, Jap Number 2, Jap Number 3, Japan Charlie, Old Jap Sam, Laughing Jap, Dwarf Jap, Chippy, Boots, and Stumpy-names of this sort instead of real names. Then there are the radicals who went against society and followed the laws of human kindness, the ones who cared for all people, regardless of creed or race as it states in the Constitution. In any culture these differences are usually shaped by family values, but can have negative consequences due to environmental stimuli.Ishmael Chambers is a Caucasian man in his early thirties. He is a clean-cut all American type man who runs a newspaper on San Piedro Island. Hatsue Miyomoto is a Japanese woman of the same age.

She appears as a fairly typical Asian woman with a very traditional upbringing. Kabuo Miyomoto is a Japanese man, also in his thirties. He is very well disciplined man who believes in tradition, honor and karma. Each person, although similar in certain ways, loves very deeply in their own personal way. Ishmael Chambers was taught at a very early age about equality and tolerance.Much of this can be attributed to his father, who began a newspaper that thrived on truth and morality.

Ishmael is a wounded veteran, who has lost a large part of his arm due to a gunshot during World War Two. It renders him self-conscious to the point where he notices subtle differences in the demeanor of people he encounters. Later in life, this takes effect on his view of the Japanese people and drags them into a poor light for being Joinson 3 associated with the Germans. Things weren’t always so, as he harbored an undeniable love for Hatsue.Ishmael grew up with Hatsue and had spent many years of his life with her. It began with a salty kiss on the beach that would change their friendship immensely.

“he moved into the warmth of her face anyway and put his lips against hers. ” (Guterson, p. 74). He kissed her because of an inward feeling that said to him “this is right”. It was the right moment for him, but it was not yet reciprocated. She ran off and left him to ponder and fret about his decision for ten days.

Finally, he resorted to watching her in her backyard, spying on her through a wooden fence.Ishmael was determined to seek some sort of clue and followed her through the woods and encountered her at an old hollowed cedar tree. It was there where he found the answer he sought. He apologized about kissing her to which she replied “Don’t be sorry, I’m not sorry about it” (Guterson, p. 84).

They lie in the tree for a long time and spoke about their families’ potential views of their being together. Again they kissed. Their time together from that moment on was thrust into one of a love that was to be kept secret at all costs. They would secretly meet for hours at a time almost daily and their love seemed undeniable.All the while, Hatsue was being brought up to be loyal to Japanese culture. She was taught how to sit, how to dress, and how to act.

Most of all she was taught to become a suitable wife for a Japanese man. She was told that American boys only responded to their sexual desires. She was taught that American boys harbored filthy thoughts and desires. It is in this that Hatsue’s vision of her time with Ishmael was wrong. Instead of Joinson 4 focusing on her true feelings, she spent most of their time together wondering if it was wrong because of what her family’s traditions led her to believe.On December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was bombed by Japan during World War Two.

This was a time of great confusion for the pair. They were forced further apart by an act that had nothing in particular to do with them. Hatsue came to the realization that it may never work between the two of them. The bombing led to more secrecy and more deceit. Shortly after, Hatsue’s family was forced into yet another disillusioning situation.

Her father was taken away on suspicion of being a Japanese spy. Also, the U. S. government placed all people of Japanese descent into their custody.Japanese internment camps were set up throughout the country.

These horrible, ill-run, and filth-ridden accommodations were Americas answer to the Japanese bombing. They also arrested many Japanese people and charged them in suspicion of “spy operations”. Hatsue’s father was among the men arrested. This all meant nothing to Ishmael, who felt nothing could break true love’s bond. Although somewhat justified, Hatsue’s view of the situation went against the love she harbored. This may be due to fear, or it could also be true that she was tainted by her cultures closed-minded views on white people.

However, prejudice had begun to take its course and ruin something beautiful. Hatsue left for internment. Hatsue’s mother learned of the romance and strongly disapproved. She forbids her daughter’s continuance of any further correspondence. Time and the absence of Ishmael’s presence dissolved her feeling for him.

Hatsue’s mother had another way of ensuring the dissipation of feelings left for Ishmael, distraction. “When Kabuo Miyomoto brought his Joinson 5 chest of drawers, Fujiko asked him to stay for tea,” (Guterson, p. 173). Time passed and Kabuo became the new familiar face.Hatsue began to feel less pain about her situation with Ishmael.

Although she found Kabuo attractive, she had to train herself into feeling the way she had for her first true love. “When she kissed him for the first time, she felt the grip of sadness, how it seized more tightly around her, and how different his mouth was from Ishmael’s” (Guterson, p. 174). Kabuo is a good man, steeped in strong morals and tradition, but not the man Hatsue would have chosen for herself. By the end of the story, the reader understands that the feelings for him are strong.At this point very much time had passed and her feelings for Kabuo had become natural.

Hatsue is able to completely overcome her feelings for Ishmael because she now has someone to cling to. Adversely, Ishmael Chambers was never able to find a soul to fill the void left by Hatsue. “I’m like a dying person,” Ishmael said to her. “I haven’t been happy for a single moment since the day you left for Manzanar” (Guterson, p. 251).

He tried his luck with a few women, but was sadly let down because he’d been comparing them to her.Hatsue was his idea of perfection, and because of this, all potential matches were flawed even before the initial inspection. This standard made it infinitely impossible to find someone who’d scratch the surface. It was Ishmael’s blind, passion induced hope that made it so impossible to let go of his fixation. Even during Kabuo’s murder trial, he imagines sweeping Hatsue off her feet.

He held the key to her husband’s life in his hands. He possessed evidence that could clear Kabuo’s name, but he sat on it. Ishmael’s obsession with Hatsue led to a major Joinson 6 crossroad in his life.He had to make a decision. In one hand, he had an innocent man’s life, in the other, a path back into the arms of his one true love.

“The truth now lay in Ishmael’s own pocket and he did not know what to do with it” (Gunderson, p. 122). Ishmael’s decision not only came from his father’s moral teachings, but in the words of a humble defense lawyer, Nels Gunderson. “I ever tell you how much I liked your father? Arthur was an admirable man” (Gunderson, p. 120).

These words were felt in Ishmael as he ponders his decision and stares into a destructive, yet beautiful frozen scene.He decided to right the situation by submitting the evidence to the court. By committing to such a selfless act, Ishmael proves himself and his love to Hatsue. Though there will be heartache, he can finally begin a much needed healing process. He can also hold his head up high and be true to his family’s reputation, the reputation whose foundation was strengthened by truth, justice and humanity.

David Guterson chose such wonderful names for his characters in this novel. The one that leapt from the pages in this writer’s eyes is Ishmael Chambers.The name in itself sounds strong, but after some thought, one may come to find that there is a wealth of knowledge to be attained. Ishmael sounds like such a pure, wholesome name. When paired with the last name chambers, which is so obviously a symbolic reference to one’s heart, it rings true in so many ways. Ishmael’s noble nature is finally shown in the end.

His pure love is shown for Hatsue when he unselfishly gives her back the life of her husband.Works Cited Guterson, David. “Snow Falling on Cedars” 1st Ed. Harcourt Brace and Company, New York 1994