Snow Falling on Cedars

by

David Guterson

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The Courtroom Symbol Analysis

The Courtroom Symbol Icon

In the novel, the courtroom symbolizes humanity’s task of determining the truth from the limited (and often imperfect) facts to which it has access. The world that the residents of San Piedro inhabit is one dictated by bias, cruelty, and the whims of chance. Still, these people are tasked with determining—with certainty—whether Kabuo Miyamoto is innocent or guilty of a brutal murder. Their job isn’t easy, and at times, Guterson seems to doubt that that humans can ever really separate themselves from the subjective truths they’ve come to accept as objective fact. For example, despite the reasonable doubt present in the prosecution’s case against Kabuo, many jurors believe that the “fact” of his Japanese ethnicity is enough to convict him of murder. Their idea of the “truth,” thus, is colored by deeply prejudiced “facts.” When Guterson shifts the narrative back to courtroom or the trial, he means to draw the reader’s attention more explicitly to this battle between fact and truth.

The Courtroom Quotes in Snow Falling on Cedars

The Snow Falling on Cedars quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Courtroom. 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 26 Quotes

“I’m not interpreting or misinterpreting,” Alvin Hooks cut in. “I merely want to know what the facts are—we all want to know what the facts are, Mrs. Miyamoto, that’s what we’re doing here.”

Related Symbols: The Courtroom
Page Number: 371
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

The Courtroom Symbol Timeline in Snow Falling on Cedars

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Courtroom 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
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
The novel opens in a courtroom, which is filled to capacity. Kabuo Miyamoto, appearing detached and unreadable, sits at the defendant’s... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The courtroom is Judge Llewellyn Fielding’s, and it is “run-down and small.” The jurors, who have “studiously... (full context)
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 “a few wind-whipped and... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The courthouse is located on San Piedro Island in Amity Harbor, the island’s only town. Amity Harbor... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, there are “out-of-town reporters” from larger cities covering the trial, as well as Ishmael Chambers,... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
As he sits in the courtroom, Ishmael recalls how he’d tried to speak with the accused man’s wife, Hatsue Miyamoto, earlier... (full context)
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Now, as he sits in the courtroom, Ishmael ponders this less than savory interaction with Hatsue. He feels uncomfortable sitting amongst the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Nels Gudmundsson, Kabuo’s defense attorney, cross-examines Art Moran. Nels is 79 years old, “with a... (full context)
Chapter 5
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Horace Whaley, the Island County coroner, testifies to Alvin Hooks. He describes the autopsy he... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
In the courtroom, Horace continues with his testimony, recalling that he told Art Moran that if Moran were... (full context)
Chapter 7
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Back at the trial, the Japanese islanders sit in the back of the courtroom. They aren’t legally restricted to the seats in the back, but “San Piedro require[s] it... (full context)
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, the trial’s morning recess is underway. Hatsue Miyamoto talks to her husband, Kabuo. Hatsue has... (full context)
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... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Hatsue observes that Kabuo has grown distant since he returned from fighting in the war,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
In the courtroom, Ishmael Chambers watches Hatsue. He remembers their childhood friendship, thinking back to one particular day... (full context)
Chapter 9
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Ishmael watches Hatsue talk to Kabuo. He forces himself to look away. When the court... (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... (full context)
Chapter 19
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
...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. Whitman is the hematologist... (full context)
Chapter 21
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, it’s Nels Gudmundsson’s turn to cross-examine Susan Marie. He looks at Susan Marie’s “tragic, sensual... (full context)
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
...that this is exactly 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
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
Fielding, Hooks, and Gudmundsson retreat to the Judge’s chambers. The courtroom is empty, save for Ishmael Chambers, who is lost in thought. Ed Soames thinks that... (full context)
Chapter 24
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
...trouble killing their enemy. Still, Ishmael recalls this propaganda when he sees Kabuo in the courtroom. (full context)
Chapter 25
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... (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 snow from his windowless... (full context)
Chapter 30
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
It’s 3:00 p.m., and the jury leaves the courtroom to begin their deliberations. Hatsue goes to Kabuo and tells him that he’ll be free:... (full context)
Chance vs. Choice Theme Icon
Duty vs. Desire Theme Icon
Ishmael looks at Hatsue from across the courtroom. He thinks about her testimony, and about how his private knowledge of her allowed him... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
The Psychological Impact of War  Theme Icon
...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 of the electricity with... (full context)
Racism and Prejudice Theme Icon
Facts vs. Truth Theme Icon
Back in the courthouse, the members of the jury are in the midst of their deliberations. All but one... (full context)