Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 12 | Summary



Seeing Hatsue Miyamoto in the courtroom prompts Ishmael Chambers to remember their past. When they were in high school they met in their secret place—the cedar tree—on a regular basis. They were physically and emotionally intimate with each other. Ishmael worried he loved her more than she loved him. Ishmael dreamed of marrying her, but Hatsue said their relationship was "evil" because her family would not approve. Ishmael argued the world is evil, not them, but she was not convinced.


Ishmael Chambers may want to believe life was simple when they were younger, but this chapter reveals the truth. His relationship with Hatsue Miyamoto was neither simple nor predestined. They had to meet each other in secret, pretending to be mere friends at school. Ishmael was hurt when Hatsue withdrew from him, yet he dismissed it when she told him she thought their relationship was wrong because her parents, and the broader Japanese American community, would disapprove if they knew.

The Japanese associate age with maturity and wisdom; thus, respect for one's elders is a central tenet of Japanese culture. Hatsue's "training" also taught her to distrust romance or passion from white men, who might only value her for her beauty. The narrator makes it clear Ishmael values her for many reasons which Hatsue may not recognize. Despite this love, Ishmael was unable to understand the barriers to their relationship, barriers that would be insurmountable in their present culture.

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