Snow Falling on Cedars

by

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars: Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It’s the third day of the trial. Nels Gudmundsson starts calling forward his own witnesses. His first witness is Hatsue Miyamoto. She wears a “calm expression” on her face as she approaches the witness stand. Nels coughs and clears his throat before questioning her—it’d been a cold, rough night, and he’s not feeling well.
Like her husband, Hatsue’s face is “calm” and composed. Nels’s appearance and coughing makes him seem sickly and off-putting. Nels’s appearance has nothing to do with the facts of the trial, but it might influence the way the jury perceives what he has to say. 
Themes
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Hatsue is dressed cleanly and tastefully. Her composure reminds a reporter of a geisha. Hatsue isn’t calm on the inside, though. She’s not confident in speaking for Kabuo, who “[is] a mystery to her, and [has] been ever since he’d returned from his days as a soldier nine years before.” Hatsue is overcome by memories of her husband’s sudden shift in demeanor when he returned from the war.
The reporter’s instinct to compare Hatsue to a geisha exemplifies the casual prejudices present throughout the trial. Hatsue’s admission that Kabuo has been “a mystery to her […] ever since he’d returned from his days as a solider” is evidence of Kabuo’s psychological struggle.
Themes
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Hatsue remembers how Kabuo had been cold, aloof, and suffered from frequent “disturbing dreams.” Hatsue thought that having children would change things: she’d been encouraged when Kabuo had taken it upon himself to get a job at the cannery to support the growing family. But Kabuo hadn’t been happy there, and talked constantly about buying a farm. Every place they visited was wrong in some way. Soon, Kabuo revealed to Hatsue his plans to buy back his family’s seven acres of land.
In the face of the “disturbing dreams” and general psychological upset the war caused him, Kabuo’s dream of honoring his family and buying back their land gives him hope for the future. Kabuo and Hatsue are alike in this way: they both embrace the beauty of honoring one’s duties.
Themes
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
The land predicament was a huge problem for Kabuo. Half a year after war’s end, Hatsue, pregnant, woke to find Kabuo gone. Eventually, Kabuo came back, holding the Japanese family keepsakes his father had buried before the family’s relocation years before. He showed Hatsue the photo of him “wielding a kendo stick in both hands” and told her of his family’s samurai past. Kabuo talked some more about his family, how they’d “lived as children by the fruit they produced” on the strawberry farm. He insisted on buying back the land.
When Hatsue sees Kabuo holding the Japanese family keepsakes, she understands that his obsession with buying back the strawberry land is motivated by a desire to honor his family. The note about living “as children” also indicates that there may be something naïve about Kabuo’s wish to buy the land; it may not be possible to return to simpler times in the way that he wishes to.
Themes
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
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After that, they’d saved their money. Kabuo fished to support his family and save up money to buy back the strawberry field, but he wasn’t naturally talented at it, and some nights on the water weren’t successful. Kabuo grew bitter and dark himself, and took it out on his family, as well. Hatsue had once shared the dream of owning land with her husband, but the unrealized dream never tortured her as it did her husband.
Kabuo and Hatsue work together to save up money to purchase the land because they are both invested in honoring the memories and traditions of their families. It’s possible that Kabuo’s traumatic military past causes him to grow dark and bitter in a way his wife cannot fully understand.
Themes
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Hatsue’s memory ends as Nels begins to question her as to whether it would be “fair” to propose that Kabuo was interested in buying back his family’s land. Yes, Hatsue answers; he’d been very interested. Nels directs her attention to September 7, when Kabuo had gone to Ole’s to ask about the land. Hatsue remembers this day. Hatsue recalls her husband had returned home with bad news: Ole had already sold the land to Carl Heine.
Nels’s use of the word “fair” here again hints at how every aspect of the trial is affected by different people’s ideas of justice; the outcome depends more on interpretation than actual objective facts.
Themes
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
But Kabuo hadn’t been upset, recalls Hatsue; rather, he’d been hopeful. Kabuo decided to talk to Carl about the land. On September 9, Kabuo went to the Heines’ house to talk with Carl. Nels recalls Susan Marie’s testimony, in which she said that Carl hadn’t told Kabuo “no” outright. According to Susan Marie’s earlier testimony, Carl had given Kabuo reason to be hopeful. Hatsue agrees with this point: her husband had returned home “more hopeful than ever.”
Kabuo’s lack of disappointment and willingness to talk to Carl suggests that the two men couldn’t have had as stormy a relationship as others have suggested. It also suggests that the supposed coldness and stiffness that Ole reported seeing in Kabuo’s eyes when he told him he’d sold the land was a projection of Ole’s prejudice, not a reflection of Kabuo’s true state of mind.
Themes
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Still, Nels reminds Hatsue, there was the issue of Etta Heine: Kabuo and Etta weren’t on good terms. Hatsue agrees; in fact, she’d cautioned Kabuo to be realistic and not get his hopes up about buying back the land. But Kabuo had maintained that “Etta and Carl [were] two different people,” relates Hatsue. Because Carl had been Kabuo’s friend, Kabuo had reasoned, he “would do what was right.”
Kabuo believed that Carl would not discriminate against him like Etta. Kabuo’s instinct to separate Carl from Etta is evidence of the men’s childhood friendship. Kabuo wouldn’t have had such confidence in Carl if the men were on truly bad terms at this point in their lives. Thus, the prosecution’s earlier claim that Kabuo had directed mean looks at Carl is called into question.
Themes
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Hatsue tells Nels that she and Kabuo had waited, because “the next move was Carl’s.” Kabuo thought it “dishonorable” to approach Carl before he’d had the chance to respond on his own terms. On September 16—the day Carl’s body was discovered—Kabuo had returned home happy: the men had come to an agreement, he said. Kabuo had helped Carl with his boat’s dead battery; afterwards, Carl had decided to sell Kabuo the land. It was only later in the day, Hatsue explained to Nels, that the couple learned of Carl’s death.
Kabuo believed that Carl would honor his obligation to the Miyamotos and make the right decision to return the land. Hatsue’s testimony indicates that all was well between the two men and that Kabuo had a legitimate reason for being on Carl’s boat, showing a new side to the story that prosecutors have been trying to construct.
Themes
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon