Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Snow Falling on Cedars Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Aug. 2017. Web. 15 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, August 11). Snow Falling on Cedars Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Snow Falling on Cedars Study Guide." August 11, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2018.


Course Hero, "Snow Falling on Cedars Study Guide," August 11, 2017, accessed November 15, 2018,

Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 1 | Summary



It is 1955. Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese American veteran of World War II, is on trial for murder. The trial is a major event on the small island of San Piedro in the Puget Sound. Even though it is a cold December day, the courtroom is packed. Reporters are there from "off island," as well as the editor and journalist of the local paper, Ishmael Chambers. Ishmael is a World War II veteran who lost his arm in combat. He tries to behave respectfully because he remembers going to high school with Kabuo Miyamoto. He also has a past history with Kabuo's wife, Hatsue Miyamoto, which is not explained. When Ishmael tries to speak with her, she tells him to go away.


One of the book's themes is the idea of "the other"—the idea that someone of a different race or culture is profoundly different, unknowable, and impossible to understand. David Guterson indicates this in the first paragraph. Kabuo Miyamoto sits quietly at the trial, yet people in the gallery guess at what his stillness means: does he feel "disdain for the proceedings" or "fear of the verdict to come"?

Although the chapter is set inside the courtroom, Guterson paints a vivid picture of San Piedro Island. The invented San Piedro Island is based on a real island called Bainbridge Island, where the author lived. As described, San Piedro is a small, close-knit community. The town does not seem to have a lot of money, as the courtroom is sparsely furnished. The narrator explains that one of its main industries is fishing: specifically, purse seining and gill netting, two fishing methods that can be done in coastal waters on smaller boats, often with a one-man crew. Both purse seining and gill netting can be damaging to other marine wildlife, such as turtles and dolphins, but in 1955, when the book is set, this would not have been a serious concern.

The narrator foreshadows the ways in which the past will affect this trial. Ishmael Chambers remembers going to school with Kabuo Miyamoto; he also has a strong reaction to Hatsue, Kabuo's wife, though no details are provided about their history together. As the chapter ends, Ishmael wants the snow to make the island pure again, just as he remembers it from his youth. He seems to regret his lost youth and may be thinking of his romantic past with Hatsue Miyamoto.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Snow Falling on Cedars? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!