Snow Falling on Cedars : Chapter 31-32

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Summary of Chapter Thirty-One

Ishmael has supper with his mother, then sits in his father's chair and looks at his books by Shakespeare, Jefferson, Rousseau, Paine, Melville, Dickens, Tolstoy, etc. His father was self-educated, had built his own house, and after the war, had started a newspaper in which he tried to present social justice in his editorials. He remembers how his father carefully trained him and spent time with him. His parents had believed in him. He walks through the cedar forest, sits in Hatsue's cedar tree for a long time, then knocks on the Imadas's door at ten-thirty to explain to the family what he found at the lighthouse.


Commentary on Chapter Thirty-One

Ishmael makes the moral decision to help Kabuo and Hatsue, after sitting in his father's place, and remembering how his parents have loved and raised him to be a good person. He also seems to gain strength from Hatsue's cedar tree. Without thinking, he goes to the Imadas to tell them the truth. This not only saves Kabuo but Ishmael's own soul.


Summary of Chapter Thirty-Two

Ishmael tells the Imadas he believes the lighthouse notes about the ship in the lane as the likely cause of death will make the judge declare a mistrial. Carl had no doubt had an accident from the wake of the freighter. He mentions the coffee cup knocked on the floor of the cabin as proof something rocked the boat. Hatsue follows Ishmael out to the porch afterward and kisses him and thanks him. She tells him to get married and live.

The next day she visits Ishmael at his mother's before breakfast, because she has remembered another detail—the kerosene lamp on the mast would prove Carl's batteries were dead and verify Kabuo's story that he helped Carl in an emergency. They decide to go to town to look at Carl's boat.  They show the sheriff their new evidence, and he agrees to let them see the boat. They do not find a lantern, but they find the lashing where it was attached to the mast. Carl's blood from his hand is on it. They find a place on the boat where Carl hit his head with hairs in the crack. The judge dismisses the case based on the evidence. Ishmael publishes an edition of his paper with the complete story in it to exonerate Kabuo. Carl stayed in the shipping lane to fish after Kabuo gave him a battery. All his lights were on, and as he climbed the mast to take down the lantern, the ship passed too close in the fog, not seeing him. Its wake knocked him off the mast and into the water. He hit his head on the boat.


Commentary on Chapter Thirty-Two

Hatsue realizes Ishmael has had the evidence he carries for a while. He admits to her he sat on it for a day as he made his decision. She understands and forgives. Hatsue tells Ishmael he looks like his father, symbolically indicating that he is becoming whole again and worthy. As he prints the true story of what happened to Carl, Ishmael is healed in knowing that no matter what fate has planned for humans, the human heart is greater than that.

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