“I’m talking about people . . . who can do things because they run newspapers or arrest people or convict them or decide about their lives. People don’t have to be unfair, do they?”

Hatsue confronts Ishmael with these words near the end of Chapter 22. She urges him to write something in the San Piedro Review to defend Kabuo and expose the racist nature of the trial. Ishmael’s reply—that Hatsue, or anyone else for that matter, should not expect fairness—stems from his resentment of Hatsue and is a veiled reference to her rejection of him. Hatsue seeks to empower Ishmael with her response here. She may still feel some guilt over rejecting Ishmael, but she insists that people do have the power to intervene against chance. Specifically, Hatsue means that Ishmael has the power to affect the future if he chooses to be brave, kind, and mature enough. Ishmael knows that Hatsue is right but has no response to her pleas. At this moment, we realize that the novel’s main conflict is Ishmael’s struggle to overcome his cynicism and disillusionment and help the woman who caused his resentment. He must accept that life is not always fair or just but that there are aspects of life that need not be left to chance.