Snow Falling On Cedars Review

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate September 2001

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Set in post World War II Puget Sound, Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, is the story of a small community under attack by both a record-breaking storm and a widely-publicized murder trial.

Kabou Miyamoto, the Japanese defendant, is a World War II veteran who has been accused of killing his childhood friend, Carl Heine. Throughout the book, however, Miyamoto seems strangely detached from his trial. In fact, he is often described as staring out of the courtroom windows, motionless. One of the reasons for his apparent carelessness is obvious; the evidence against Miyamoto is not very strong. Many people in the community, including the defendant, believe that Miyamoto is only on trial because of his Japanese ancestry. After all, it was not long ago that America was trapped in a World War against Japanese soldiers.

Through the trial, the author, David Guterson, finds ways to explain the life stories of the members of this small community.

By doing this, Guterson is able to show the reader why a character might act the way he or she is based on their history. The author elaborates on one specific character, Ishmael Chambers, the owner of the local newspaper. Chambers' actions and personality become very important to the trial and relate directly back to Miyamoto's life.

One of the book's main focuses is the treatment of Japanese Americans before, during, and after World War II. Nels Gudmundsson, the defense attorney, sums up the trial beautifully in this quote: "He [Miyamoto] has returned to find himself the victim of prejudice-make no mistake about it, this trial is about prejudice-in a country he has fought to defend." As mentioned before, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence against the defendant, but there is not much "hard" evidence in the case.

Snow Falling on...