Snow Falling On Cedars By David Gutterson

1345 words - 5 pages

David Gutterson’s 1994 novel Snow Falling on Cedars set on the suffocation island community of San Piedro, comes the interesting story of Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American being accused of the murder of the well respected Carl Heine Junior on September 16, 1954. The novel set before and after World War II explores major concerns such as the racial discrimination apparent in the community, the effect that many of the men carry from the war and the toll this takes on their life, as well as the evil that occupies ones heart and overcoming this to do the right thing. The sensitive time in which the novel is based helps in developing these major concerns, and gives the reader the ability to understand society, culture and the historical period in which the text was set.

Despite the fact that many Japanese had been on the island just as long as the American citizens, there was still a great deal of racial discrimination as well as hypocritical racial discrimination from the white community long before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066. Throughout the novel racial discrimination towards the Japanese is most apparent in two individuals, Etta Heine and Alvin Hooks. Etta despite also being a foreigner seems to have quite a hatred towards the Japanese community. When Etta’s husband Carl passes away she has no hesitation in selling the seven arces of land the Miyamotos have steadily but illegally been paying off, regardless of the agreement Carl Heine Senior and Zenichi Miyamoto had come to before the Japanese were ordered off the island “We’ll worry about this come picking season,” said Carl ...We’ll just play this by ear a little bit...One way or another you get your payments finished, maybe down the road somewhere.”(p.115) Many years later when Zenichi’s son Kabuo returns to San Piedro he confronts Etta Heine about the land she and her husband had agree to sell the Miyamotos all those years before, Etta says to Kabuo “I haven’t done anything wrong” to which he replies “You haven’t done anything illegal,”...”Wrong is a different matter.”(p.121) Opposing this although the Japanese in the novel are seen as the racially abused community, many of the Japanese folk were also prejudicial towards the Americans. This is most notable in the character of Fujiko Imada Hatsue’s mother. Fujiko has a deep resentment for the hakujin (the word she uses to refer to white Americans) in much the same way as Etta resents the Japanese. She urges her children to to follow their Japanese cultures and traditions and does this by sending Hatsue to Mrs. Shigemura for training in social graces. Fujiko does not want her children to interact with or act like the hakujin, when she discovers Hatsue’s relationship with Ishmael she is deeply disturbed. While talking to her daughter Sumiko she says, “Your sister has made a terrible mistake,”...”One I hope you will never make.”(p.196)

The physical and emotional effects of war on individuals on the...

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