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Snow Falling on Cedars : Characters

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  1. Arthur Chambers

    Arthur Chambers is the father of Ishmael Chambers. He started the island newspaper, the San Piedro Review, when Ishmael was a child. Ishmael worked for his father's newspaper growing up. His father is trusted by the Japanese community because he is liberal and fair in his editorials and protests the Japanese being sent to Manzanar Camp during the war. Arthur was a logger before he found his calling as a newspaper editor. He is self-made and self-educated, passing on his love of learning to his son. Ishmael thinks he cannot uphold his father's sterling reputation for moral integrity.

  2. Helen Chambers

    Helen Chambers is the widow of Arthur, Ishmael's mother. She is described as homely in the manner of Eleanor Roosevelt and with as much character. She lives alone in the family house in the country outside town, a sort of farm with chickens and gardens. She reads the literary classics and belongs to a discussion club and does church work. She understands her son's melancholy, trying to help him with his postwar depression by urging him to get married and get involved with the community. She discusses God and spiritual matters with him, but he claims he is an agnostic.

  3. Ishmael Chambers

    Ishmael Chambers is one of the main characters, the son of the newspaper editor, Arthur Chambers. Ishmael has a gentle and loving nature and finds his true love, Hatsue Imada, a little Japanese girl on the island when they are children. They grow up together as best friends and as teenagers become secret lovers because they are from different races at a time before World War II when such things matter. Ishmael wants to marry Hatsue, but when they begin to make love before he is drafted and she has to go to the internment camp, she withdraws, breaking his heart. He is forever obsessed with her and cannot go on with his life after her loss. He goes to war as a marine fighting the Japanese and begins to hate her as the enemy. When he loses his arm in the war, he comes back home bitter and lonely. He runs the newspaper and does not come out of his depression until Kabuo's trial involves him once again with Hatsue and her fate. He is able to win her gratitude by saving her husband with evidence of his innocence.

  4. Judge Llewellyn Fielding

    Judge Llewellyn Fielding is the judge in the murder case of Carl Heine. He is somewhat reluctant to pursue the case, feeling the sheriff is hasty and Etta Heine untrustworthy in her charges. He is described as sleepy and somewhat bored, but he runs a fair courtroom and in the end dismisses the charges.

  5. Josiah Gillanders

    President of the San Piedro Gill-Netters Association, Josiah Gillanders is a fisherman who testifies for the defense to prove that fishermen only board another boat in an emergency. Kabuo would not have boarded Carl's boat as an aggressive act.

  6. Nels Gudmundsson

    Nels Gudmundsson is the defense attorney who saves Kabuo. First he has to win Kabuo's trust to make him confess the truth, and he does this by playing chess with him in his cell. His strategy at chess is the same as in the courtroom. He has no interest in an endgame of castling the king; he creates an undefeatable board posture by giving up men early in the game. This demonstrates symbolically that he is more interested in truth than aggression. He is seventy-nine years old with one good eye and many physical ailments, looking old and incompetent, but very sharp in his ability to play the game of law. His summing up at the end to the jury captures the moral message of the story against racism.

  7. Carl Heine, Sr.

    Carl Heine, Sr., is the father of the fisherman who dies. He owns a large strawberry farm and is described as rich but generous to others. He notices the virtuous lifestyle of the Miyamoto family who work for him and tries to help the father, Zenhichi, buy some land for his son, Kabuo.  When his German wife Etta is upset by his humanitarian gestures towards the Japanese and Indians who work for them, he tells her they are not suited as a couple, for she is mean and prejudiced. He dies before Zenhichi pays off the land, so Etta can finally refuse it to the Miyamotos.

  8. Carl Heine, Jr.

    Carl Heine, Jr., is the fisherman who dies at sea in a fog when a big ship passes him and he falls into the water and drowns. Because he has a gash on his head, the sheriff decides he was murdered, and Kabuo is arrested for the crime. Carl and Kabuo have grown up as friends on the island, and Carl is described as a big gentle man. He is a loving husband and father, though he has been damaged by being in the war and is silent and unsociable. He had survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Canton at Okinawa, watching men drown, only to drown himself at home. He and Kabuo both try to buy the land from Jurgensen at the same time, leading people to believe they are enemies, but they actually agreed on a deal on Carl's boat right before Carl died. 

  9. Etta Heine

    Etta Heine, Carl's mother, testifies that Kabuo was Carl's enemy, but she is shown to be the face of racial prejudice in the trial. She interprets Kabuo's expressionless face as a personal attack on her with his “dirty looks,” claiming he is a threat. She believes he is trying to take away their land, even though she is the one who sold the Miyamoto land before they could return after the war and finish their payments. She is selfish, narrow-minded, and spreads nasty rumors about others. She does not respect her husband and is always upset by his generosity which she interprets as weakness. She still has her German accent.

  10. Susan Marie Heine

    Susan Marie Heine is the young and beautiful blonde widow of Carl who testifies at the trial that Kabuo was her husband's enemy. It is obvious she is influenced by her mother-in-law, Etta, because she upholds her story and makes it sound as though Kabuo and Carl quarreled about the land, when they did not. 

  11. Alvin Hooks

    Alvin Hooks is the prosecutor in the case and does everything to show that Kabuo is a killer, even inviting his army sergeant to testify that he could kill with a kendo stick.

  12. Fujiko Imada

    Fujiko Imada is Hatsue's mother. She was sold off by her parents in marriage to Hisao whom she was told had gotten rich in America. Actually, he was a poor farm worker. At first she imagines she will return to Japan, but she decides to stay and make the best of it. This is the basis of her philosophy that the Japanese do not have egos; they work for family and community. When she discovers Hatsue's secret relationship with the white boy, Ishmael, she helps her to break it off and marry a boy of her own race, Kabuo.

  13. Hisao Imada

    Hisao Imada is Hatsue's father, the poor worker who won Fujiko's respect with his honesty and hard work. Hisao and Fujiko have four daughters who help them farm. During the war, he is separated from his family and put in jail as a threat for having explosives on his land that he used to clear tree stumps.

  14. Ole Jurgensen

    Ole Jurgensen bought the strawberry farm from Etta Heine after her husband died. She did not tell him the Miyamotos had been paying for part of it. Ten years after the war, Ole has a stroke and is forced to sell. He lets Carl Heine have it because he got there first with earnest money. He does not try to help Kabuo when he asks for part of the land.

  15. Army Sergeant Victor Maples

    Sergeant Maples is the sergeant who trained Kabuo in the army. He testifies against him in court, brought in by the prosecutor to show that Kabuo is a killer with a kendo stick and could have hit Carl on the head.

  16. Abel Martinson

    Abel Martinson is the twenty-four-year-old deputy to the sheriff who has never confronted death before finding the body of the drowned Carl Heine. He is upset when they haul the body up in the net and during the autopsy.

  17. Kabuo Miyamoto

    Kabuo Miyamoto is the defendant, one of the main characters, a Japanese American, the eldest son born on the island to Hisao and Fujiko Miyamoto. Since he is born an American he can inherit the land his father pays Carl Heine, Sr., for when he comes of age. The war interferes and Kabuo and his family are sent to Manzanar and cannot finish the payments, thus allowing Etta Heine to claim they defaulted. Kabuo has strong imperial bearing, showing in his appearance his ancient samurai heritage. He was trained in kendo by his father and has become a kendo master. He is silent and contemplative, partly because like Carl and Ishmael, he is shocked by the war and having killed others. He became a U.S. soldier for the sake of his honor though his wife Hatsue knew he would not come back the same. He tries to be a good husband and father but is racked with war guilt and disappointment that they lost the land. He becomes a fisherman, though he dislikes it, to save money to buy a strawberry farm. He believes that he is really on trial for the karma of his war crimes, but it is a case of racial prejudice, and he is acquitted.

  18. Hatsue Imada Miyamoto 

    Hatsue Imada Miyamoto is a main character and the beautiful wife of the defendant. She was once chosen the Strawberry Princess in the yearly island festival. In her childhood she was in love with Ishmael and met him secretly in their hollow cedar tree. She was always torn, however, between her family and Ishmael. Ishmael urges her to be an individual, but she has been trained as a Buddhist and Japanese woman with values completely opposed to his. As they approach the crisis of war, Hatsue is sent to the concentration camp at Manzanar with her family and decides she must be Japanese after all. She breaks it off with Ishmael and instead marries Kabuo who is more like her. She, like her mother, learns how to sacrifice her own interest for her family. She has to let Kabuo go to war for the sake of his honor, knowing he will never come back the same. Ishmael finally gains a sense of peace with Hatsue after he saves her husband at the trial with evidence that it was an accident.

  19. Zenhichi Miyamoto

    Zenhichi Miyamoto came from the samurai tradition in Japan. In America, however, he is a poor strawberry farmer, disciplined and hardworking, trying to buy land as a family legacy. He makes a deal with Carl Heine, Sr., to make payments for seven acres, but the war interrupts and he is sent to Manzanar without making the final payments. After the war everything is lost, and he dies of cancer without realizing his dream. 

  20. Art Moran

    Art Moran is the sheriff of the town of Amity Harbor on San Piedro Island. He is described as a reluctant sheriff, fifty years old, not really suited for his job. He chews Juicy Fruit gum because he is nervous. Finding Carl Heine's body is the biggest event in his career, and he jumps to conclusions about it being a murder case, bringing on the trial prematurely without real proof.

  21. Horace Whaley

    Horace Whaley is a doctor, the coroner on the island who does the autopsy on Carl Heine's body, determining drowning as the cause of death. Because he finds a gash on his head that looks like the wounds inflicted by the Japanese during the war with kendo sticks, Horace encourages the sheriff to think it could be murder.


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