Snow Falling On Cedars By David Guterson

1530 words - 6 pages

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Roger Daniels plainly states that “the racist tradition … has long been a central theme of all American history” (143). In this bold, yet blatantly truthful extract, Daniels describes how Caucasian Americans are quick to embitter because of other ethnicities. In his work, Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson brings the harsh realities of prejudice to light. The setting of his work is Washington state in the post-world-war-two era. The victim of western United States injustice was nearly anyone with Japanese ancestry. The novel’s story revolves around Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American man on trial for the death of a white man, Carl Heine. Historic evidence proves that a fair trial would be exceedingly difficult to create: Kabuo was presumed guilty solely on the fact that he was of the Japanese populace.

In history, the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor on the western coast was detrimental to the Japanese people living in the United States in the region. White Americans were fearful of future attacks. Since Pearl Harbor was a surprise attack, Americans everywhere also feared that at any moment another attack was imminent. Time magazine was printing pages of drawings of Japanese and Chinese faces. The purpose of the article was to establish rhetoric in identification of a Japanese person compared to a Chinese person. The caption’s overall message was to focus on their appearance, a gap between toes, and their pronunciation of English (Inada 21). By modern standards, this would be an unacceptable test to determine background. Yet, during the time period in the novel, Americans were desperate to identify any individual that could be an enemy – at the cost of libel of the Japanese people. Guterson uses this hysteric need for discovery as a basis to show that Kabuo Miyamoto was presumed guilty even before the trial.

Three months after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the president put executive order 9066 into action. This order required that all Japanese people be relocated into “relocation camps” – euphemistic of Nazi-Germany’s equivalent concentration camp. These orders provided for very little time to be given to those affected. Orders often gave little over a week’s worth of time to prepare to move. This created large problems for these people. Many lost land holdings since they were unable to make payments. Others had to sell all of their belongings to get rid of them rather than store them. For many people, this meant that they would be taken advantage of by not having a fair deal – those not affected by the orders would in some cases cheat the desperate Japanese people. Guterson uses this historic evidence of white Americans cheating minorities to get a better deal for themselves as a backdrop to show racial unfairness.

At these camps, the “inmates had little reason to trust the United States government” (Daniels 113). ...

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