Snow Falling on Cedars

by: David Guterson

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 1

Everything was conjoined by mystery and fate, and in his darkened cell he meditated on this. . . . He would have to . . . accept that the mountain of his violent sins was too large to climb in this lifetime.

In this passage, which concludes Chapter 11, Kabuo confronts his guilt while sitting in his prison cell. He feels intense remorse for killing Germans as a soldier in World War II—a feeling notably absent in, or at least unexpressed by, the novel’s white veterans. More than anyone else in the novel, Kabuo accepts that “mystery and fate” dictate the outcome of life. However, he also believes that individuals, “straining and pushing at the shell of identity and distinctness,” are responsible for their actions. Kabuo feels that he has sinned by killing Germans, even if he had little or no choice in the matter. Now a prisoner, Kabuo believes he must atone for these sins by accepting punishment, even if this punishment is for a murder he did not commit. The actual reason for the punishment is irrelevant, because Kabuo feels his punishment is deserved. The only freedom he believes he will ever truly experience, therefore, is the freedom to accept his guilt.