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More than any other character in the novel, Hatsue is
torn between the demands of two seemingly irreconcilable sets of
values. The young Ishmael represents one set of values, the belief
that individuals have the right to be happy and that they can live
in a manner unrestrained by the demands imposed by society. The
other set of values, represented most fully by Hatsue’s mother,
Fujiko, and Mrs. Shigemura, holds that life is inherently full of
suffering and misfortune. Individuals must accept the limitations
of their time, place, and culture and try their utmost to fulfill
their duty to family and community.
Though these two value systems roughly correspond to
the cultural division between the whites and the Japanese, Hatsue
is proof that such a simplistic division is impossible and that
it is inappropriate to assume that all whites feel one way and all
Japanese the other. Hatsue feels bound by duty to her parents, but
at the same time resents her mother’s antiwhite prejudices. As a
teenager, she loves Ishmael but feels that their love is somehow
wrong. Later, Hatsue learns to accept that she can never love Ishmael
and follows her mother’s wishes by marrying a Japanese man. Yet
when Kabuo informs her of his plans to enlist in the army and fulfill
his duty to America, Hatsue tries to make him stay. Her argument
is similar to the one Ishmael makes in the cedar tree: two people
in love should be together no matter what the rest of society demands
Even after the war, when Kabuo is on trial, Hatsue cannot
accept the idea that her husband’s fate rests in the hands of an
impersonal system of courts and laws. She expects Ishmael to intervene
on Kabuo’s behalf simply because Ishmael, as the editor of the newspaper,
has power and influence that might be used to assist Kabuo’s case.
Throughout the novel, Hatsue struggles to reconcile the conflicting
values of individualistic idealism and stoic passivity. That she
never fully achieves this reconciliation suggests that such a struggle
Ace your assignments with our guide to Snow Falling on Cedars!