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Snow Falling on Cedars

David Guterson

Chapters 22–24

Chapters 19–21

Chapters 22–24, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 22

People don’t have to be unfair, do they?

(See Important Quotations Explained)

The electricity is still out in the courtroom, so Judge Fielding calls a recess. Ishmael swings by his office to pick up his camera to take pictures of the storm for the paper. Driving carefully along the island’s icy roads, he photographs numerous overturned cars and other scenes of the storm’s destruction. On one road, he encounters the Imada family; the car Hatsue and Hisao have been riding in has gotten stuck in the snow, leaving them stranded. Ishmael persuades the Imadas to accept a ride home. There is an uncomfortable silence in the car until Hatsue finally breaks it, complaining that Kabuo’s trial is unfair. She implies that it is Ishmael’s responsibility as a newspaper editor to defend Kabuo in his publication.

Summary: Chapter 23

After dropping the Imadas off at their home, Ishmael visits the archives at the coast guard lighthouse to compare the present blizzard to past winter storms. Meanwhile, he thinks back on his first encounter with Hatsue after the war, when he ran into her at the grocery store. Hatsue noticed his arm and expressed regret for his injury. Staring at her newborn baby, Ishmael angrily replied, “The Japs did it.” Hatsue treated him coldly after this remark, ignoring his profuse apologies. In a later encounter, Ishmael found Hatsue alone on the beach and begged her to let him hold her one more time. She refused, asking him to leave her alone.

At the lighthouse archives, Ishmael reads over the radio--transmission records for the night of Carl Heine’s death. The records show that a large freighter, the S. S. West Corona, radioed for assistance in navigating the thick fog. The radioman on duty at the lighthouse that night advised the Corona to proceed through Ship Channel Bank—the area where Carl was fishing that night—to get back on course. According to the records, the Corona passed through Ship Channel Bank at 1:42 A.M., just five minutes before Carl’s watch stopped when he fell overboard. Ishmael realizes that, as a large freighter, the Corona would have produced waves easily large enough to upend Carl’s boat and knock him overboard.

Ishmael steals one of the carbon copies of the lighthouse report from that night’s log. Then, talking to one of the lighthouse attendants, he learns that Milholland, who was the radioman the night of Carl’s death, was transferred off of San Piedro the morning following the incident. With Milholland gone, Ishmael is the only one who could know about the connection between the Corona and Carl’s death.

Summary: Chapter 24

“Everything else is ambiguous. Everything else is emotions and hunches. At least the facts you can cling to; the emotions just float away.”

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Ishmael visits his mother, Helen Chambers, and talks about the case against Kabuo. He lies to his mother, telling her he thinks Kabuo is guilty. Helen, an elegant and educated woman reminiscent of Eleanor Roosevelt, fears that the evidence in the case is circumstantial and incomplete. She wonders if there are ever enough facts to make a conclusive judgment for a punishment as serious as a death sentence. Helen also says that she sees a cold remorselessness in Ishmael, the product of his experience in the war. Since coming back from the war, he has had only shallow, loveless, and infrequent relationships with women—a fact that dismays Helen. She tells him he must get over the psychological wounds of his war years and resume a normal life.

After talking with his mother, Ishmael rereads Hatsue’s years-old letter telling him that she does not love him anymore and that she is breaking off the relationship. Ishmael knows that Hatsue realized this loss of love when they began having sex the day before she left for the internment camp. As Hatsue has requested, Ishmael decides to write a newspaper article defending Kabuo, knowing that if he does so, Hatsue will be in his debt.

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