David Guterson's Snow Falling On Cedars

2243 words - 9 pages

David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars

Whilst setting up a puzzle to be solved, good crime fiction also takes
the opportunity to explore and comment on the world it is depicting by
conforming to and subverting the conventions of crime fiction. This
can be seen in David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars in which he
utilizes and adapts the conventions of the courtroom drama, enabling
him to not only present a murder mystery, but also to explore the
prejudices on an American 1950s audience and comment on its
manifestations in today’s society. Similarly, Howard Hawkes’ film The
Big Sleep explores and comments on the values of his world of
immediate post WWII American society, rather than just “[setting] up a
puzzle”. Anither example of good crime fiction is agatha Christie’s
And Then There Were None, utilizing the conventions of the cozy in
order to fulfil the dual purpose of setting up a puzzle and exploring
and commenting on the class structures and expectations of the world
she is depicting – 1020s Britain. Through conforming to and subverting
the police procedural sub genre, Anthony Zulitch in the Pledging Mr
Johnson episode of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) also presents good
crime fiction by extending beyond presenting a mystery to make
relevant commentary on a modern American world.

Again – try to simplify the opening. Let the line of argument stand
out more clearly.

Guterson wrote Snow Falling on Cedars primarily to explore and comment
on the human condition, demonstrating the truth of the statement that
“good crime fiction” does not merely present a puzzle to be solved. By
adapting the conventions of the courtroom drama, Guterson uses the
interrogation of witnesses, following Carl Heine’s death, to explore
the stories, biases and attitudes of various individuals on San Piedro
Island. Etta Heine is used to show the old bigotries and how they
prejudice people’s reactions and perpectives. As the linear flow of
the novel is interrupted, Heine recalls telling her husband, “We’re
not such paupers as to sell to Japs, are we?” The victim’s wife, Susan
Marie shows that she is not inherently prejudiced but knows little of
Japanese culture and is therefore wary. In this way, Guterson explores
the racial prejudice surrounding Kabuo’s trial and the world he is
depicting; by depicting racial tensions as simmering beneath the
surface of a seemingly sleepy island, typical of the classic mystery
text, Guterson comments on its possible manifestation in today’s
society.

Guterson’s novel is an example of “good crime fiction” because his
murder mystery, far from curtailing its potential, explores and
comments on the moral responsibility of the world he is depicting
whilst simultaneously presenting a stimulating puzzle to solve.
Guterson strays from the convention of a murdered...

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