Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 16 | Summary



This chapter covers events and feelings experienced by Ishmael Chambers when he served with the Marines in the Pacific theater, fighting Japanese soldiers. He is both haunted by and furious with Hatsue Miyamoto. He writes her letters that he never sends, telling her he looks "forward to killing as many Japs as possible." Some letters say he hates Japanese people and that "she was as responsible for it as anyone in the world. In fact, he hated her now." Ishmael sees horrific things in battle. A gunshot shatters his arm bones and results in most of his arm being amputated. Even as he is given morphine for the pain, he talks about Hatsue, the "Jap bitch," but none of these negative views ever reach Hatsue.


The combined stress of war and the break-up with Hatsue Miyamoto seem to overwhelm Ishmael Chambers. He struggles with illness and a general "numb" feeling. Ishmael also struggles because of who he is. He is surrounded by men trying to outdo each other to be as aggressive as possible. Everyone claims to hate the Japanese soldiers, and Ishmael's feelings toward Hatsue get mixed up in that. She rarely leaves his thoughts: when he is told it might be his last chance to write to someone, he writes to her. Yet he writes hateful, vicious words. She is on his mind as he goes into surgery, even though he uses insulting language.

The war looms over all the events of this book, yet this is the only chapter to show the actual war. In this one chapter David Guterson demonstrates why not only Ishmael but Carl Heine, Kabuo Miyamoto, Horace Whaley, and all the other veterans of the war are haunted by what they have seen and done.

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