Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 19 | Summary



Back at the trial, the prosecutor calls a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood work) to the stand. The hematologist explains the blood on the gaff matches Carl Heine's blood type, not Kabuo Miyamoto's. It is clearly human blood, not fish blood. Kabuo's lawyer, Nels Gudmundsson, points out Carl had had a cut on his hand, which could have caused the blood stain. Nels also indicates the blood sample showed no evidence of skin or hair, which one might expect to see if the gaff caused Carl's head wound. Nels gets the hematologist to concede it's "more likely" the blood came from Carl's hand wound.

The prosecutor summons several fishermen who testify Kabuo was fishing near Carl's boat on the night Carl died. They also testify fishermen would not board each other's boat unless there was an emergency.

The prosecution's final witness is Sergeant Maples, who trained Kabuo in the military. Maples describes how Kabuo volunteered to help him demonstrate bayonet techniques. Maples was unable to hit him, but Kabuo easily knocked Maples to the ground. Maples complains Kabuo kept bowing to him and calling him "sir" and admits he began learning kendo after his experience with Kabuo. He testifies that Kabuo could easily kill a man with a fishing gaff.


The prosecutor's case against Kabuo Miyamoto has some strong evidence in its favor. Kabuo's boat was near Carl Heine's, Carl's blood is on the gaff, and Kabuo's kendo skills are formidable—these raise serious questions about Kabuo's potential guilt. But they are not the whole story.

Many problems in this book occur because of misunderstandings between Japanese and non-Japanese people. David Guterson establishes the fishermen's dislike of Kabuo; they will not speak up for him. Sergeant Maples respects Kabuo as a soldier but does not vouch for him as a person. These men's failure to vouch for Kabuo intensifies the court's scrutiny of him.

Sergeant Maples may have studied kendo, but he does not fully understand it. Martial arts disciplines like kendo have very strict beliefs about the honorable way to fight. When Kabuo first fights with Sergeant Maples, he keeps bowing and calling Maples "sir." He says he does it "out of habit ... I'm used to bowing when I spar with somebody." Kendo comes from the samurai training regimens of centuries past. Samurai valued their honor very highly. Attacking an unarmed and unaware man would violate the samurai's honor code, also known as bushido. These codes of honor may have been centuries old, but they were still well-established in parts of Japanese culture, which still influenced some Japanese officers during World War II. Likewise, Kabuo believes in bushido and a warrior's honor. He bows to the sergeant because he fights in an honorable way, and attacking Carl without warning would be dishonorable. Kabuo feels guilty for having killed armed men in battle, but Sergeant Maples believes he could cold-bloodedly attack an unarmed man.

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