Snow Falling on Cedars Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Snow Falling on Cedars : Chapter 13-14

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Summary of Chapter Thirteen

The next three chapters are a flashback to the move of the Japanese community on the island in 1942 to the internment camp Manzanar in California. Americans, fearing a Japanese invasion of Oregon and California, decide to lock up the Japanese Americans who might aid the enemy. The government freezes Japanese bank accounts. The Japanese on the island publicly pledge their loyalty to the United States, and Ishmael's father, as editor of the island paper, runs a liberal editorial on the injustice of treating San Piedro Japanese as the enemy. Ishmael's father gets criticism that he favors the enemy.


Commentary on Chapter Thirteen

The narrative shows the historical circumstances that lead to prejudice against the island Japanese people and how the islanders react. Ishmael's father is a liberal leader, giving his son an example of courage to speak out in the face of social wrong.


Summary of Chapter Fourteen

The move to Manzanar continues. Hatsue's father and other men in the community are arrested and put in jail for having weapons like swords and dynamite. Hisao writes to his wife every day. Fujiko tells her five daughters she wants them to learn to face hardship with dignity. She tells them the war will force them to be more Japanese. Whites believe in their separate egos, while Japanese seek union with the “Greater Life” (p. 254). Hatsue argues that these so-called egoless Japanese are the ones who started the war. She wants to be American, not Japanese. Her mother tells her she has been tainted by living with whites, and her soul will decay if she is not careful.

Pulled between her mother's and Ishmael's arguments, all this uncertainty explodes as they have their final meetings in the cedar tree. Though Ishmael is part of her, “he left this hole inside of her” (p. 260). Ishmael argues that Love is the biggest thing there is and begins to make love to her on their final meeting. Suddenly, she is shocked into realizing it is not right and pulls away. She knows she cannot be her true self with him.


Commentary on Chapter Fourteen

It seems that fate decides the lovers' lives. Their personal decisions are swept away by the war and the internment of Japanese. No longer can the lovers pretend they have the same life, and Hatsue is torn away from American ways to be with her people in their terrible hour of suffering. In the final meeting, she sees clearly, as Ishmael does not, that it makes a difference he is not Japanese and that to be with him is to lose her soul, as her mother has warned. Both lovers are shocked for different reasons. Ishmael is getting total confirmation of his deepest love for her at the same instant she is sure it is not right. They part in misery, she to go to the camp, and he to the draft.



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