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Snow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

Chapters 19–21

Chapters 15–18

Chapters 19–21, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 19

Back in the courtroom, Dr. Sterling Whitman, a hematologist (a blood specialist) from the mainland town of Anacortes, testifies that the blood on Kabuo’s fishing gaff is human blood, type B positive. This type matches Carl Heine’s and is relatively rare—only ten percent of white males are type B positive. Kabuo, on the other hand, is type O negative, so the blood clearly did not come from him. Though he does not say it explicitly, the prosecutor, Alvin Hooks, clearly implies that the gaff could be the weapon that caused Carl’s head wound.

Under cross-examination from Nels Gudmundsson, however, Dr. Sterling admits that he did not find any bone splinters, hair, or skin on the gaff—remnants that one would expect to find if the gaff had been used to inflict Carl’s head wound. Dr. Sterling says that it is more likely that the blood came from a minor wound the coroner found on Carl’s hand. In addition, he states that a full twenty percent of the Japanese population has B positive blood, so the blood on the gaff could have come from any of a number of the island’s Japanese residents.

After the morning recess, Army First Sergeant Victor Maples, who trained Kabuo’s regiment in hand-to-hand combat during the war, takes the stand. Sergeant Maples testifies that Kabuo demonstrated an incredible expertise at kendo during training, which impressed the sergeant deeply. In fact, Kabuo was so good at kendo that Maples asked Kabuo for instruction in the art. Maples tells the court that he believes Kabuo’s kendo skills could be used to kill a man far larger than himself. Perhaps most damning, Maples believes that Kabuo was not only capable but also willing to inflict violence on another man.

Summary: Chapter 20

The narrative flashes back to September 9, 1954, about a week before Carl’s death and two days after Kabuo showed up too late to purchase Ole Jurgensen’s land. Carl’s wife, Susan Marie, is at home. Kabuo stops by to talk to Carl about the sale of Ole’s land. As Carl and Kabuo discuss the matter outside, Susan Marie reflects upon her courtship with Carl. She remembers how she learned to take pleasure in her sexual attractiveness when she was about seventeen, and how at twenty she used that allure to pursue Carl.

Carl comes back inside and explains to his wife that Kabuo has asked to purchase the seven acres of land his father originally tried to buy. Carl is not sure how to act: he wants to do what is right, but his dislike for “Japs” makes him reluctant to sell the land. Also, Carl does not like the way Kabuo reacted when he said he had to think the matter over; he gets the impression that Kabuo expected Carl to hand over the land to him immediately. Susan Marie says nothing more about the matter, believing that it is not her place to probe her husband’s past. When Carl leaves, Susan Marie thinks about their marriage, and realizes that it is based only on sexual attraction. She worries about what will happen when their desire for each other fades.

Summary: Chapter 21

The narrative returns to the present, resuming its account of Kabuo’s trial. Susan Marie takes the stand to testify about the details of Kabuo’s visit on September 9. During Nels Gudmundsson’s cross-examination, she admits that she was not physically present during Carl and Kabuo’s conversation about the land. Additionally, Susan Marie concedes that Carl told her he had in fact given Kabuo some reason to hope that the seven acres would be available for purchase. During Susan Marie’s testimony, the blizzard raging outside knocks out the electricity in the courtroom.

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