Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 17 | Summary



As a snowstorm worsens, Sheriff Art Moran is back on the witness stand. He identifies four mooring ropes (used to tie boats to a dock) that he found during the investigation. Two came from Kabuo Miyamoto's boat and two from Carl Heine's. One of the ropes from Carl's boat matches the type on Kabuo's boat. Art suggests that Kabuo tied his boat to Carl's and then, in a hurry, left one of his ropes behind when he cast off (released his boat from Carl's). Art recounts how his investigation led from Etta Heine to Ole Jurgensen and then to a judge for a warrant to search Kabuo's boat.


The narrator pauses briefly at the start of this chapter to share multiple anecdotes about how the storm affects San Piedro. These anecdotes remind the reader how small the island really is. They illustrate the island's strongly Scandinavian ancestry: most of the names mentioned are Scandinavian, with the exception of Johnny Katayama, the bus driver. The islanders' attitude toward the storm borders on a Japanese- and Buddhist-style philosophy: they must accept it and survive it, just as the Japanese Americans from the island had to accept and survive the internment.

Any mystery story will have to address three major questions to prove a character's guilt: means, motive, and opportunity. The prosecutor argues Kabuo Miyamoto has all three. He has the means and the method to commit the crime (the bloody fishing gaff), and the motive (revenge over the land dispute). Now the prosecutor begins to demonstrate Kabuo's opportunity. Art Moran's evidence supports the idea Kabuo tied his boat up to Carl Heine's that night. Keep in mind, Art has shown no sign of being prejudiced or racist. However, he has to follow up on the evidence, even if he is suspicious of the source, which, in this instance, is mainly Carl's mother, Etta Heine, who is no fan of the Miyamotos or the Japanese presence on the island.

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