Snow Falling On Cedars Essay

I have to admit, when I first started reading this book, I had a problem with
trying to stay awake: I found the writing dry. Then slowly as characters were
introduced, a mystery started to unfold, and tension between neighbors rose, I
could not put the novel down. Whether it was the vivid descriptions of the snow
banks, or the emotional accounts of the townspeople, David Guterson’s novel,
Snow Falling on Cedars is a true piece of literary art. Snow Falling on Cedars
is the fictional account of a Japanese immigrant, Kabuo Miyamoto who is on trial
for the murder of a fisherman, Carl Heines. The majority of the residents of San
Piedro have already found Kabuo guilty simply because of his race, physical
stature, and history as a soldier. Guterson weaves this relatively simple tale
through the eyes of many people giving points of view that are sometimes lost in
stories of prejudice, thus creating a complex story where one finds themselves
simplifying with every party involved. By doing this, Guterson establishes an
emotional connection between the readers and the characters. The characters,
although physically different, are very similar in that they don’t trust
anyone who is different than they are. For instance, Carl Heine’s mother
always believed that Kabuo was glaring at her. She felt that he was sneaky and
was going to try and steal away her land. Through this statement, we see how
some of the white residents feel about their neighbors from the Far East.

Guterson also makes it known that the older Japanese do not trust the White’s
either when we read the conversation between Hatsue and her mother. Hatsue’s
mother tells her that the whites are evil and deceitful and will try and take
away her purity. By writing these conversations, Guterson shows us that a lot of
anxiety is built between different cultures when they do not understand each
other. Snow Falling on Cedars has found a place in my heart. Up until the last
chapter I was convinced that this story was just a cheap rip-off of ?To Kill A
Mockingbird?, yet in the last chapter justice is served, and an innocent man
walks away. This is one of the main reasons I liked this book. I identified with
the characters, I established a connection, while the whole time hoping they
would do the right thing, and as we know, they do not let me down. Ishmael comes
to the Miyamoto family with his news about the freighter, and they approach the
sheriff with it. I was a little worried at this point that Ishmael was going to
remain bitter about loosing Hatsue, but as was my initial feeling he did do the
right thing. I think that was one of the major themes that this book was
portraying, although people are different and have very strong conflicting
emotions, we are all humanitarians and we will do the right thing. I feel this
book ties in well with the ?Washington State History? class. One can read
about Washington’s high amount of trees, yet one cannot appreciate them nearly
as well as I did when reading Snow Falling on Cedars. Snow Falling on Cedars had
a certain charm to it, something I connected with as a long time resident of
this State. For instance, when Ishmael is making his way to his mother’s
house, and he is describing the chaos that the snow has created, ?Looking out
past the windshield wipers Ishmael saw billions of snowflakes falling in long
tangents, driven southward, the sky shrouded and furious. The wind propelled the
snow against the side of barns and homes, and Ishmael could hear it whistling
through the wing window’s rubber molding, which had been loose now for many
years.?(320) I am reminded of my days growing up in the Cispus Valley where
scenes like this were frequent in the winter months. The strawberry farms are
another good example. Some of the descriptions that Guterson used to capture the
beauty of these fields were as if they were mine. I remember working summer jobs
in strawberry fields in Orting and the long aisles of strawberries were indeed
quite beautiful and did have a great aroma. Perhaps the most important part of
Snow Falling on Cedars is the descriptions of the Japanese Internment Camp.

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Maybe this is my fault, however I like to consider myself well in tune with
history, but I had no idea how bad the Japanese were treated. To think, while we
were in Germany fighting against the evils of the Nazis and their treatment of
the Jews that the whole country found disgusting, we were guilty of the same
thing. After reading this book I was driving to my sisters house, which happens
to be right across the street from the Puyallup Fair Grounds, and it sent a
shiver up my spine. Every year thousands of people go there and play carnival
games and pet the horses, yet they have no idea that people were forced to sleep
in these stables. Snow Falling on Cedars is, quite simply, one of the greatest
works of modern literature that I have read. It captures the beauty of the
Northwest, the lust of adolescent love, and the ugly face of racism in us all.

Snow Falling on Cedars fits in well with Washington State History on a few


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