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. That Kabuo never stood a chance of getting a fair trial can be supported by actual historical evidence from the time period and evidence of prejudice and discrimination taken directly from the novel. The general attitude of anti-Japanese feelings was so strong among many, that Kabuo would have never gotten a fair trial.
One historical event that shows the general attitude of anti-Japanese feeling that was so prevalent in the 1940 to 1955 time period is an article from the Tuesday, March 24, 1942 edition of the New York Times. The article is written in Manazar, California, the same place where the Japanese people of the novel were sent. The article's title "Japanese Begin Evacuation Trek" is a show of prejudice itself ("Japanese" 21). The fact that the wholly unconstitutional relocation of not only aliens but American citizens is called a "evacuation" is laughable. This event was the forced relocation of people who reminded some other people of the tragic events of Pearl Harbor. To do this nowadays would be like gathering up all Arab-Americans and forcing them to live in camps, even if they were citizens of the United States. Throughout the article, which is clearly a work of propaganda, the author repeatedly refers to the overall good spirits that prevailed over the event. He writes how "Most of the faces showed little to no emotion, but conversations on every side emphasized the adventurous nature of the evacuation movement" ("Japanese" 21). In trying to make light of the situation, the author tries to draw attention to things that make people happy when speaking of the relocation event. He writes of the people "... assembling long before daylight near the Pacadena Rose Bowl, scene of many a great football game" ("Japanese" 21). The simple fact that is seen in this article is that when a society will allow the government to forcibly relocate hundreds of thousands of people just because they look like the enemy, there is no way that on of these enemy-look-alikes would ever stand a chance of getting a fair trial. This is why Kabuo never stood a chance of getting a fair trial. Even though his trial was occurring more that a decade later, feelings that strong do not die so quickly.
Another historical event that shows the prejudice that was so rampant...