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. In the fictional novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, Kabuo Miyamoto is an example of this victimization.
The United States did not enter World War II until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. On Sunday morning December 7, 1941, with no formal declaration of war, Japan bombed the Hawaiian navy base. “Eight American battleships and 13 other naval vessels were sunk or badly damaged, almost 200 American aircraft were destroyed, and approximately 3,000 naval and military personnel were killed or wounded (Pearl Harbor, 1).” The U.S. Navy was caught completely off guard. As a result of the attack, Roosevelt immediately sought and was granted a declaration of war from congress. “On Monday, FDR signed the declaration of war granted by Congress. One day later both Germany and Italy, as partners of Japan in the Tripartite Pact, declared war on the US (attack, 1).” Not only did Japan kill hundreds of American soldiers, they were also the reason the U.S. decided to go to war, thus causing the death of thousands more American men. Following the surprise attack, America became suspicious of anything even remotely related to Japan.
White Americans quickly concluded that all people of Japanese decent were a threat to American national ecurity. This feeling resulted in the relocation of at least 110,000 Japanese people. “In February of 1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the relocation of all people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast of the United States. (Friedler, 1).” Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps. While these camps were not “death” camps like the ones for the Jews in Germany, the living conditions were very harsh.
In the novel, The Imada’s and the Miyamoto’s were sent to Manzanar,. “Manzanar barracks measured 120x20 feet and were divided into six one-room apartments, ranging in size from 320 to 480 square feet. Each block of 15 barracks shared bath, latrine, an mess buildings (Manzanar, 2).” These conditions were cruel and unusual punishment to the Japanese Americans who were forced to live there. The Japanese Americans felt that the sentence of imprisonment was against their rights as American citizens. However, in the 1944 court case Korematsu vs. United States “The Court sided with the government and held that the need to protect natural Americans against espionage outweighed Korematsu’s rights (Korematsu, 1).” American citizens of Japanese heritage had to leave their...