Analysis : Chapters 22–24

Just as Carl Heine struggled with the decision over whether to bury his grudges and make up for past wrongs, now Ishmael must decide whether to use his power to help Hatsue. Hatsue wants Ishmael to write an editorial about the role racism has played in Kabuo’s arrest and trial. Ishmael, however, is reluctant to raise this issue because he still harbors a desire for revenge against Hatsue and the Japanese. When Ishmael finds the lighthouse report that exonerates Kabuo, his dilemma becomes even more urgent. With the trial coming to a close, Ishmael must quickly make the difficult decision of whether to come forward with the evidence. At the end of Chapter 24, when Ishmael decides to write the editorial Hatsue has requested, it initially seems that he has merely reached a decision to comply with her wishes. It proves to be more complicated than that, since Ishmael indicates that his decision to write the editorial is not purely out of concern for Hatsue but also out of a realization that penning the editorial would put Hatsue in his debt. Ishmael struggles to reconcile his simultaneous love and resentment for Hatsue—a struggle that forces Ishmael to choose between desire to get revenge on Hatsue and his desire to live up to his father’s legacy of journalistic integrity.

Indeed, the flashbacks of Chapter 23 demonstrate just how strong—and conflicted—Ishmael’s feelings for Hatsue are. When Ishmael first sees her after returning from the war, he pointedly expresses his hatred of “the Japs,” hinting that she shares part of the blame for his missing arm. In their next encounter, Ishmael suddenly expresses his desire to hold Hatsue one last time. Later, Ishmael lies to his mother about Kabuo’s guilt, even after he finds the lighthouse report that clearly exonerates him. Ishmael cannot move on from his wounds from love and war, unable to mediate between his feelings and beliefs. Guterson suggests a subtle parallel between Ishmael’s immature unwillingness to move beyond his own disappointments and a larger social immaturity that leads to racism, prejudice, and even war.