Snow Falling On Cedars

“The essential themes of the novel “Snow Falling On Cedars’ are generational inheritance, love, cultural difference and prejudice. Discuss with close reference to the text.”

The essential themes in the novel “Snow Falling On Cedars’ are generational inheritance, love, cultural difference, and prejudice. Prejudice flourishes in the novel as a persistent theme. Kabuo was trialed for the murder of Carl Heine with no actual evidence to prove he was in fact accountable. Ishmael was also a victim of prejudice by having Hatsue leave him to marry another man of her own culture to avoid embarrassment and shame from her family by being with an American. Cultural difference is seen in the novel through examples of Japanese and American’s views, cultures elders, and also comparison and contrasting the difference of opinion between cultures concerning right and wrong. The essential theme of love can clearly be associated with various attributes of the novel, including Hatsue and Kabuo’s marriage, Ishmael’s love for Hatsue and Hatsue’s previous love for Ishmael. Generational inheritance is related to Hatsue’s shame and embarrassment of her former lover, Ishmael Chambers. Her family did not approve of their daughter in a relationship with Ishmael because of racial difference, and Hatsue was embarrassed as a result of her generational inheritance of her family’s opinions. Generational inheritance also relates to Ishmael inheriting his fther’s newspaper, Carl Heine’s inheritance of his family’s land, and the matter of land inheritance for Kabuo. Generational inheritance, love, cultural difference and prejudice are the matters which are the essentials of “Snow Falling On Cedars’.

The theme of prejudice is evident and essential in the scenes of Hatsue’s family against her previous love towards Ishmael, and also the scene of the courtroom. Hatsue’s family believed she should not marry or be in a relationship with a white-American man. In her young and innocent period with Ishmael, neither of them saw the problem in being together, and were ignorant of the feuds outside their childhoods between their cultures. Hatsue found the Cedar tree she and Ishmael visited a prison of deceit while for Ishmael it was a land of fantasy and a form of escapism for both of their corrupted worlds. But when she was old enough to understand, and when of course she fell in love with Kabuo, Hatsue left Ishmael because of racial prejudice. Hatsue was embarrassed being with a white man and valued her family’s opinion of her over her love for Ishmael.

Cultural difference is displayed in the novel through examples of differing Japanese and American views, treatment of elders, and also contrasting opinions between the two cultures concerning perceptions of right and wrong.

Japanese citizens are frequently brought up respecting their elders, and having very high regards for obedience.

“I’m sorry, Hatsue said. “Forgive me, Mother. I’ve deceived you and always known it.” (Guterson, 1995 pg 201)When Hatsue rebels against her mother’s wishes and sees Ishmael, she commits a moral crime according to the Japanese traditions.

Difference of opinion is demonstrated in “Snow Falling On Cedars’ in various scenes of the courtroom. Kabuo did not express any anxiety or distress which then lead the jury and witnesses to believe more that he had committed the crime. This is another example of cultural difference. Americans were ignorant of the cultural difference and assumed by his lack of emotion, that his plea was false, which impacted the opinions of the Americans towards him through misunderstanding of the contrast between cultures.

Another crucial element in “Snow Falling On Cedars’ is the theme of love. Ishmael Chambers and Hatsue’s passion for each other shows the reader even in a time of turmoil and pandemonium, love between two supposed opposite people is possible. The couple’s love is carried out throughout the novel and the tension and awkwardness is never officially resolved after Hatsue marries Kabuo.

“He didn’t want to hate her, but since this was a last letter he felt bound to tell the truth as completely as he could ,he hated her with everything in his heart, he wrote, and it felt good to him to write it in just that way. “I hate you with all of my heart,’ he wrote. “I hate you, Hatsue, I hate you always.’ It was at this point that he ripped the sheet from his writing pad, crumpled it, and threw it into the sea.” (Guterson, 1995, pg 237)

Despite the young, innocent love of Ishmael and Hatsue, the love of Hatsue and Kabuo was evidently stronger in the novel. Together they felt safe and content knowing their equality. Hatsue in fact lost her virginity to Ishmael in the Cedar tree. But then she later reveals to Kabuo that he was her first. This states that technically it was Ishmael, but her love for Kabuo was so much greater than that of Ishmael she overwrites her past and feels that he truly took her virginity.

“When we met that last time in the cedar tree and I felt your body move against mine, I knew with certainty that everything was wrong.” (Guterson, 1995, pg 388)

Hatsue earlier declared to Kabuo that she had never had sexual intercourse.

“Have you ever done this before?’ he whispered. “Never,’ answered Hatsue. “You’re my only.’” (Guterson, 1995, pg 80)

This is indicative of Hatsue’s much stronger and certain feelings for Kabuo.

The theme of generational inheritance applies to Hatsue’s feeling of dishonour when she fell in love with Ishmael Chambers, a white-American man. Hatsue’s family did not approve of her being in a relationship with Ishmael as a result of generational inheritance of their ancestors opinions. Each cultural preference was passed down to the offspring and adopted by them to abide by. These opinions were directed at the fact cultures should marry into the same cultures, which is what Japanese people thought to be honourable around the time of 1954. In the time of the trial, Kabuo had a very stern, straight face throughout the court session. The jury and witnesses thought that because he was showing no facial expression, he must be guilty. This is also another example of generational inheritance. Japanese children are frequently taught discipline at an early age, and also are taught not to react or show emotion as an additive to their responses. However, Americans were ignorant of this fact, and assumed by his lack of displaying any emotion, his plead was against him which impacted heavily of the opinions of the Americans towards him. Generational inheritance is very important with respect to land inheritance ,including Carl’s inheritance of the land from his family. Before Carl passed away he inherited his family’s land before Kabuo demanded it back, and confronted Etta Heine about it. Ishmael’s inheritance of his father’s newspaper is also included in the elements of general inheritance. Ishmael feels belittled and vexed by the fact that his peers expect him to live up to his father’s reputation of running a terrific newspaper.

The essential themes of “Snow Falling On Cedars’ includes prejudice, cultural difference, love, and generational inheritance. Kabuo was trialed for murder without proof, and was despised by most of the courtroom for simply having a stern face when he did not commit any crime. Hatsue’s shame for her earlier lover Ishmael was based purely on race and generation inheritance of family’s opinions. Love fluctuates within the novel between Kabuo and Hatsue, and Hatsue and Ishmael and there is constant tension between what is right and wrong within Japanese and American relationships and feuds. These themes are crucial elements which make up the essential themes of the novel “Snow Falling On Cedars’.

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