Snow Falling on Cedars

by

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The evening of September 16, the day he discovered Carl Heine’s body, Art Moran went to Judge Lew Fielding to obtain a warrant to search Kabuo’s boat. Fielding seemed surprised to hear Moran mention Kabuo, so Art explained the five main “concerns” he had regarding Kabuo’s possible involvement: (1) men had told Moran that Kabuo and Carl were in the same waters the night of Carl’s death; (2) Etta claimed Kabuo and Carl were enemies; (3) the out-of-place mooring line on Carl’s boat made it seem as though someone had boarded his boat recently; (4) Ole Jurgensen claimed that both Kabuo and Carl saw him to inquire after the land for sale; and (5), the head wound Horace Whaley had identified on Carl was strikingly similar to the kendo wounds he’d seen during the war.
Art’s reasons for wanting to obtain a search warrant are mostly valid, though Etta’s claim that Carl and Kabuo are enemies is likely fueled by her personal biases against the Miyamotos and Japanese people more generally. Art’s fifth reason is particularly problematic. Horace Whaley thought Carl’s head wound was similar to the kendo wounds he’d seen during the Pacific War, but it’s only an observation. There’s no evidence to suggest that Carl’s head wound is in fact a kendo wound, other than the fact that Horace thinks it looks like one.
Themes
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The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Fielding had been skeptical, and referred to Horace’s thoughts about the wound’s resemblance to a kendo infliction as an “off-the-cuff statement.” He hadn’t been convinced that this detail really incriminated Kabuo. As far as Etta was concerned, Fielding found her hatefulness to be problematic.
Fielding recognizes the bias and illegitimacy of Etta’s and Horace’s remarks. His skepticism shows that he cares about eliminating bias and maintaining factual integrity in his courtroom.
Themes
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Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
But Art insisted that if they didn’t act soon, they’d lose their chance to uncover the truth. He presented an affidavit he’d prepared earlier. Judge Fielding caved, and made Art “swear that the facts in [the] affidavit [were] true,” and then asked for a warrant for him to sign. Fielding allowed Art to search Kabuo’s boat, but not his home.
Judge Fielding values learning the truth about Carl’s murder, so he lets Art search Kabuo’s boat. But by limiting Art’s search warrant to Kabuo’s boat, Fielding demonstrates that he is still conflicted and uncertain about signing the warrant.
Themes
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Later that night, Kabuo Miyamoto made his way toward his boat, the Islander, which sat in the south dock. He saw “half a hundred seagulls” around his boat. San Piedro fishermen were generally pretty superstitious, paying great attention to “signs” large and small. Kabuo wouldn’t typically count himself among his superstitious cohort; still, the enormous flock of birds circling around his ship was unsettling to him. According to fishermen’s lore, “those who harmed seagulls risked the wrath of ship ghosts, for gulls were inhabited by the spirits of men who had been lost at sea in accidents.” The seagulls, thus, made Kabuo feel a real sense of dread.
The seagulls seem to remind Kabuo of fate. According to the fishermen’s lore, “gulls [are] inhabited by the spirits of men who had been lost at sea in accidents,” so it would make sense for Kabuo to connect the souls of lost men to the souls of the Germans he killed during the war. The seagulls, then, serve as evidence of the consequences Kabuo believes he will ultimately pay for committing those wartime atrocities.
Themes
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
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Kabuo, nonetheless, went about prepping his boat for a night of fishing. He opened up his battery well and inserted a new battery. He started the engine. He still felt ill about the seagulls. He watched other boats depart from Amity Harbor towards the salmon grounds. He thought about heading out to Ship Channel Bank, as others would likely have fished all there was to fish at Elliot Head.
The batteries are presented as evidence in court, so this is an important detail to note. Kabuo’s continued wariness of the seagulls suggests that he is still worrying about fate as it relates to his role in the war. The war remains a perpetual source of anguish for Kabuo.
Themes
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Suddenly, Kabuo saw a seagull “perched arrogantly on the port gunnel” of his boat. It looked like it was watching him. Kabuo aimed his water hose at the bird. The water hit the bird, and as it tried to escape the hose’s heavy stream of water, “its head smashed against the gunnel of [an adjacent boat].”
Kabuo harms the seagull, so according to fishermen’s lore, he now “risk[s] the wrath of ghost ships.” The seagull hitting its head on the gunnel also foreshadows the injury Carl will suffer. 
Themes
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At this very moment, Art Moran and Abel Martinson appeared before Kabuo’s boat. Art instructed Kabuo to turn of the Islander’s power. Moran informed Kabuo that he had a warrant to search his boat. He told Kabuo that he’s looking for a murder weapon. Moran noted the D-6 batteries and the replaced mooring line on Kabuo’s boat. Kabuo insisted he’d had the line for some time. Art Moran seemed not to believe Kabuo.
Art and Abel’s entrance immediately follows Kabuo’s accidental slaying of the seagull. It would be hard for him not to perceive their appearance as being connected to the bird’s death. To Kabuo’s mind, Art and Abel have been sent by fate to make him pay for the seagull’s death, and, by extension, for the deaths of the slain German soldiers. 
Themes
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Then Art and Abel found a “long-handled gaff wedged against the wall.” The gaff was “a stout three-and-a-half-foot gaff with a barbed steel hook on one end.” There was blood on the butt end—not where fish are pierced, but where the user’s hand would normally rest. Kabuo claimed that this sometimes happened—that fish blood got on one’s hands and was then transferred to the butt end.
Kabuo’s explanation for the blood on the butt end of the gaff is just as legitimate and likely as the prosecution’s explanation that the blood came from Carl’s head when Kabuo struck him with the gaff.  However, the prosecution’s story, fueled by prejudice, is always seen as more factual and more legitimate than Kabuo’s alternate story.
Themes
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Moran said his warrant allowed him to send the gaff in for testing. Kabuo insisted again on his innocence. Moran placed Kabuo under arrest, noting to himself that the investigation had taken five hours so far. He remembered Horace Whaley’s condescending “Sherlock Holmes” remark during Carl’s autopsy. He also remembered telling Susan Marie about Carl’s death earlier that day. Though Moran hadn’t initially expected to find anything, he now believed Carl’s death was a murder. He saw, also, “that […] Horace Whaley had been right. For here was the Jap with the bloody gun that Horace had suggested he look for.”
Five hours is a ludicrously short amount of time for a murder investigation. The duration of Art’s investigation suggests a lack of thorough, unbiased investigation. As Art arrests Kabuo, his thoughts are not on the facts that validate his arrest, but on the subjective emotions that drive him to act—Susan Marie’s shock, and Horace Whaley’s impassioned, bigoted speculation about “the Jap with the bloody gun.” This scene makes it clear that Kabuo’s arrest isn’t the culmination of a successful investigation—it’s the inevitable outcome of unchecked prejudice and emotion.
Themes
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Art faced Kabuo, “look[ing] into the Jap’s still eyes to see if he could discern the truth there,” but he saw only “a proud, still face.” He placed Kabuo under arrest “in connection with the death of Carl Heine.”
Art is unable to “discern the truth” in Kabuo’s eyes because prejudice clouds his judgment. When Art looks at Kabuo, he sees only the unreadable, “proud, still face” of a “Jap.” This is another instance in which a white character unfairly regards Kabuo’s unreadable face with skepticism. His own prejudice and the prejudice of others has already convinced Art that Kabuo is guilty, so he sees what he wants to see in Kabuo’s face.
Themes
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon