Snow Falling on Cedars : Chapter 23-24

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Summary of Chapter Twenty-Three

Ishmael goes to the coast guard lighthouse that keeps the local weather records, especially in terms of the tides and sea weather. Ishmael says he is doing a story on the storm and wants to take a look at old records to see if there has ever been such a severe storm. A radioman arrives with lanterns and shows Ishmael the records in shorthand of all the ship transmissions to the lighthouse. He finds records for the night of Carl's death, September 15, a night of fog. A ship called the Corona had radioed the lighthouse for assistance. This large freighter had gone through the Ship Channel where Carl was fishing at 1:42, five minutes before his watch stopped when he drowned. The wake of the ship was big enough to knock Carl overboard. Ishmael takes the records and puts them in his pocket without anyone seeing him do it.


Commentary on Chapter Twenty-Three

There is a flashback to Ishmael's memories after the war. When he sees Hatsue in a grocery store, she expresses sorrow for his lost arm, and he blurts out in bitterness that the Japs did it. Another time he begs her for an embrace, and she says he has to let go of her because she is married now. The war and loss of Hatsue have left Ishmael a bitter and lonely man. He is unable to go on with his life. This is necessary information in order to understand what Ishmael does with the lighthouse records that would obviously show Carl Heine was not murdered. The radioman who wrote down the information was transferred, so Ishmael is the only one with this information proving the innocence of Kabuo.


Summary of Chapter Twenty-Four

Ishmael's mother has the woodstove in the kitchen going when he arrives with kerosene and food. His mother has adjusted to being a widow, is involved with the church and community, contrasting to her lonely and bitter son. He insists he does not believe in God because of what he saw in the war. Mrs. Chambers expresses sympathy for the Imadas, but Ishmael lies and says Kabuo must be guilty. Ishmael remembers the propaganda he was taught as a soldier about the Japanese soldiers, how they don't care about life, only honor. Ishmael's mother points out his prejudice towards Kabuo. She accuses him of having gone cold, and he feels empty inside. She tells him his father got over war, and he needs to get married and have children. Ishmael spends time looking at his father's books and his own memorabilia in his room. He rereads Hatsue's goodbye letter. He realizes how different he is from his father.


Commentary on Chapter Twenty-Four

The trial is bringing up all of Ishmael's memories, doubts, and grief. He feels stuck, and what is worse, the reader begins to suspect he might let Kabuo die out of revenge by keeping back the records. In this way he contrasts to his father who also had war trauma from World War I but did not lose his sense of moral responsibility to his community. The court clerk had earlier noticed that Ishmael is half the man his father was. The chapter is a portrait of the goodness of Ishmael's parents, especially his father, and the strong moral upbringing the boy was given. When his father died of cancer, a Japanese leader on the island said he hoped Ishmael would continue his father's fair point of view towards the Japanese. Instead, Ishmael is thinking of writing an article to impress Hatsue but holding back the proof that would free her husband.

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