Snow Falling on Cedars

by

David Guterson

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Snow Symbol Icon

Snow—and more specifically, the snowstorm that unfolds over the course of Kabuo Miyamoto’s murder trial—represents all that is beyond the ability of humans to control. It also brings to light the distinction humans must make between the things they can (and should) change in life, and the things they have no ability to change. In other words, snow evokes the conflict between choice (things one can control) and chance (things that are beyond one’s control) that so many characters grapple with throughout the novel. Snow Falling on Cedars contains multiple references to the storm’s uncontrollable nature. One such reference comes from Judge Fielding’s final remark to the jury before they begin their deliberations: “The storm […] is beyond our control, but the outcome of this trial is not.” In his remark, Fielding reminds the jury that it’s the choices they make that will determine the outcome of Kabuo’s trial—not the random forces of the universe that governs the snowstorm. Throughout the novel, Guterson evokes snow or the snowstorm to differentiate between the things humans can control and the things they cannot, and the task of determining over which forces they have the ability to exercise control and agency.

Snow Quotes in Snow Falling on Cedars

The Snow Falling on Cedars quotes below all refer to the symbol of Snow. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Snow Falling on Cedars published in 1995.
Chapter 22 Quotes

“I’m not talking about the whole universe,” cut in Hatsue. “I’m talking about people—the sheriff, that prosecutor, the judge, you. People who can do things because they run newspapers or arrest people or convict them or decide about their lives. People don’t have to be unfair, do they? That isn’t just part of things, when people are unfair to somebody.”

Related Symbols: Snow
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

The citizens in the gallery were reminded of photographs they had seen of Japanese soldiers. The man before them was noble in appearance, and the shadows played across the planes of his face in a way that made their angles harden […]. He was, they decided, not like them at all, and the detached and aloof manner in which he watched the snowfall made this palpable and self-evident.

Related Characters: Kabuo Miyamoto, Alvin Hooks
Related Symbols: Snow, The Courtroom
Page Number: 412
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 29 Quotes

“The storm,” said the judge, “is beyond our control, but the outcome of this trial is not. The outcome of this trial is up to you now. You may adjourn and begin your deliberations.”

Related Characters: Judge Llewellyn Fielding (speaker), Kabuo Miyamoto
Related Symbols: Snow, The Courtroom
Page Number: 422
Explanation and Analysis:

“There are things in this universe that we cannot control, and then there are the things we can. Your task as you deliberate together on these proceedings is to ensure that you do nothing to yield to a universe in which things go awry by happenstance. Let fate, coincidence, and accident conspire; human beings must act on reason.”

Related Characters: Nels Gudmundsson (speaker), Kabuo Miyamoto
Related Symbols: Snow, The Courtroom
Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Snow Falling on Cedars LitChart as a printable PDF.
Snow Falling on Cedars PDF

Snow Symbol Timeline in Snow Falling on Cedars

The timeline below shows where the symbol Snow appears in Snow Falling on Cedars. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Snow falls outside the courthouse, and beyond it lies the town of Amity Harbor, which contains... (full context)
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...an “anonymous” seat after the trial’s morning recess. Ishmael’s mind wanders and he considers the snow, recalling his fond early memories of beautiful winters. (full context)
Chapter 4
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Judge Lew Fielding calls for a recess and observes the snowfall. Everybody seems grateful for a break; the jurors’ faces “appear quiet and even faintly reverent.”... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Hatsue talks to her husband. She remarks on the snow. Kabuo notes that it reminds him of Manzanar, as snow usually does. The couple had... (full context)
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
In a memory, Hatsue recalls this first night together. As the snow fell outside on their wedding night, the couple made love. Kabuo smelled like earth to... (full context)
Chapter 12
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Outside Kabuo’s jail cell, it continues to snow. Ishmael Chambers walks outside and takes in the forces of nature that surround him, which... (full context)
Chapter 17
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, the snow continues to fall heavily on San Piedro. It covers all the roads, impacting the daily... (full context)
Chapter 19
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
...now December 7, the morning of the second day of Kabuo’s trial. It’s freezing and snowing outside, but the courtroom is warm. Alvin Hooks calls Dr. Sterling Whitman to the stand.... (full context)
Chapter 22
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
...outage around town; and go down to the coast guard station to “get a full storm report.” (full context)
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael walks around town taking pictures of the snow’s impact on the town and townspeople. He captures a car accident. The heavy snowfall, in... (full context)
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...are scattered along the sides of the road. Ishmael’s car, a DeSoto, is “a dubious snow car,” but Ishmael keeps it because it had been his father’s. (full context)
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
...Imadas’. The car has wiped out on the side of the road. Hisao Imada shovels snow out from beneath the car’s rear wheel. Ishmael knows that Hisao won’t accept his help,... (full context)
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
...the details of how their accident occurred. Ishmael listens sympathetically. He acknowledges the inconvenience the storm has created for the Imadas, but asks, “don’t you think the snow is beautiful?” Hisao... (full context)
Chapter 23
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
...chief petty officer, […] Evan Powell.” Ishmael tells Powell he’s writing a story about the storm and would like to go through old logs to compare this storm’s intensity to past... (full context)
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...Kabuo’s trial present among all the records and logs. He abandons his research for the storm story and turns instead to the records for September 15 and 16. In a series... (full context)
Chapter 24
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...Helen Chambers, is in the kitchen. He tells her of all the car accidents the snowstorm has caused. Helen Chambers is “the sort of country widow who lives alone quite capably.”... (full context)
Chapter 27
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
The snowstorm continues outside the courtroom, beating against the windows. Kabuo hasn’t been able to sense the... (full context)
Chapter 28
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
...like them at all,” citing “the detached and aloof manner in which he watched the snowfall” as sufficient proof of the matter. (full context)
Chapter 29
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...criminal case, the jury’s decision must be unanimous. Fielding then makes his closing remarks: “The storm […] is beyond our control, but the outcome of this trial is not.” He reminds... (full context)
Chapter 30
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
...packs up his papers; Ed Soames leaves the courtroom open to the public, as the storm has given them no other warm place to go; Ishmael looks at his notes. (full context)
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Ishmael walks outside and sees that the snow has stopped. He continues to walk and sees some cedars along the road. He notices... (full context)
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Ishmael continues to look at the destruction the storm has wrought on the harbor and knows that he is different from other men because... (full context)
Chapter 31
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Ishmael drives through the snow to his mother’s house. The power is still out there. She’s reading in the kitchen... (full context)