The cedar tree represents the absence of society’s pressures and prejudices. In Snow Falling on Cedars, cedar trees—and, to a larger extent, nature as a whole—exist in a realm untouched by humans. Throughout the novel, characters retreat to nature to escape the ugliness and unfairness that plagues them in their daily lives on San Piedro Island. As young lovers, Ishmael Chambers and Hatsue Imada retreat to the haven of a hollow cedar tree to be together in a prejudiced society that won’t permit their interracial relationship. Hatsue, who spends much of her childhood torn between the American and Japanese parts of her identity, visits the cedar tree to be alone with her thoughts. When she is in the cedar tree and in nature, she doesn’t have to feel stuck between two worlds: she can simply be herself. In Snow Falling on Cedars, Guterson evokes the cedar tree to underscore a contrast between the ugliness of San Piedro’s often prejudiced, alienating culture and the capabilities humans have to transcend the limitations these prejudices create.
The Cedar Tree Quotes in Snow Falling on Cedars
The inside of the tree felt private. He felt they would never be discovered here. […] The rain afforded an even greater privacy; no one in the world would come this way and find them inside this tree.
“None of those other things makes a difference. Love is the strongest thing in the world, you know. Nothing can touch it. Nothing comes close. If we love each other we’re safe from it all. Love is the biggest thing there is.”