Snow Falling on Cedars

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Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Quote 5

“There are things in this universe that we cannot control, and then there are the things we can. . . . Let fate, coincidence, and accident conspire; human beings must act on reason.”

During his closing arguments in Chapter 29, Nels Gudmundsson offers this interpretation of the task before the jury. Nels offers a different sort of argument from that of Helen Chambers. Whereas Helen questions whether facts can lead to truth and instead believes in love, Nels emphasizes the ability—and duty—of people to think and act rationally. He wants the jury to realize that it has the power to control events and that it should not leave them to chance. In offering these contrasting viewpoints from Helen and Nels, Guterson suggests that if love is one way to survive the storms of fate, reason is another. Though love is fragile and reason is imperfect, Nels and Helen argue that these human forces can be strong and can affect the outcomes of events. With this message from Nels to the jury, Guterson emphasizes the challenge of doing everything in our power to rise above chance and circumstance.