Snow Falling on Cedars

by

David Guterson

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The Cedar Tree Symbol Analysis

The Cedar Tree Symbol Icon

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 Snow Falling on Cedars quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Cedar Tree. 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 8 Quotes

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.

Related Symbols: The Cedar Tree
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Ishmael Chambers (speaker), Hatsue Miyamoto (Hatsue Imada)
Related Symbols: The Cedar Tree
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Cedar Tree Symbol Timeline in Snow Falling on Cedars

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Cedar Tree 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
...remnants of a lost era of seagoing optimism.” Beyond this, the land is covered in cedar trees. Kabuo watches the snow fall and recalls that during the 77 days he’d been... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
...else. Though downtrodden, the town boasts great natural beauty, brimming with green hills covered in cedar trees. (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
...the next century, hundreds of additional Japanese immigrants arrived on San Piedro. After the island’s trees had been cleared and the mill dismantled, they had taken jobs clearing strawberries, another of... (full context)
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...ability to be truly calm. As a child, Hatsue would linger in nature, especially among trees, and “contemplate her attraction to the world of illusions.” She found herself torn between a... (full context)
Chapter 8
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...rain. As Hatsue approached the beach on Miller Bay, she took a shortcut through the cedar woods, and Ishmael followed her. Hatsue went inside a hollow tree that the two used... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
In the tree, Ishmael apologized for kissing Hatsue on the beach. Hatsue told him not to be sorry—she,... (full context)
Chapter 12
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...to be seen together in public, the young lovers spend many hours alone in their tree on the weekends. The cedar tree provides them with an alternative reality, separate from the... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
The young couple opens up to each other in the cedar tree, speaking with the intensity and dramatics of teenagers. But Hatsue is sometimes “cold and... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...meetings. She feels that she will “suffer from the consequences of it.” Outside of their cedar tree, Hatsue and Ishmael essentially ignore one another. (full context)
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Ishmael’s memory flashes forward to when they were high school seniors: In the cedar tree, Hatsue tells Ishmael about her training with Mrs. Shigemura, about how she’d been strongly... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
...he’s going to be drafted and that he has no choice. They sit in the cedar tree, and Ishmael sees that “their absorption in one another […] shield[s] them from certain... (full context)
Chapter 14
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...love could mean if it doesn’t mean the experience she shares with Ishmael inside the cedar tree. (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
The couple meets in the tree later that day. They both admit they cannot recall a time when they didn’t know... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...before she and her family must leave, Hatsue goes out to meet Ishmael in the cedar tree. Ishmael proposes a way for them to write to each other secretly while she... (full context)
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...Ishmael goodbye, tells him that she’ll write, and leaves him in the woods behind a cedar tree. (full context)
Chapter 21
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
...the point he was trying to make. The lights in the courtroom go out: a tree has downed the power line. (full context)
Chapter 22
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
...helps Hatsue and Hisao, but the Imadas’ car’s tire has been punctured by a felled tree, and they eventually accept a ride from Ishmael. (full context)
Chapter 30
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
...about “all the times he had touched her body and the fragrance of all that cedar…” Ishmael leaves the courtroom just as the lights flicker back on. Ishmael celebrates the return... (full context)
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...outside and sees that the snow has stopped. He continues to walk and sees some cedars along the road. He notices that the town’s docks are under water from the storm... (full context)
Chapter 31
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
...how his father loved to garden. He recalls his father tending, carefully, to his fruit trees. He also painted and built his own desk (at which Ishmael now sits). (full context)