Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 2 | Summary



The prosecution calls the sheriff, Art Moran, as its first witness. Art remembers how he found Carl Heine's body three months earlier: In mid-September Art got a report that Carl's boat was drifting in the bay. Art and his deputy, Abel Martinson, went out to the boat and looked around. At first they saw no sign of Carl, and Art worried because he knew Carl and his wife. Carl was a lifelong island resident, a veteran of World War II. On the boat Art noticed a few strange things: a coffee cup overturned; a marine battery sitting out. He was surprised that the boat's batteries had plenty of energy even though the lights had been running all night. Then they found Carl's body tangled in his own fishing net and discovered that his skull was crushed in "just above his left ear."


Knowledge of basic legal terminology will be essential for understanding many chapters in this book. In a criminal trial, such as one for murder, the prosecution, led by a prosecutor, is responsible for proving a person's guilt. The person being accused—Kabuo Miyamoto, in this case—is called the defendant and will have a defense attorney to argue his case in court.

The narrator provides insight into Art Moran, the sheriff, as well as Art's perspective on Carl Heine, the murdered man. Most importantly, the narrator establishes that Art is an honest man trying to do his job. He is not trying to make a case against Kabuo and initially assumes Carl died accidentally.

Many people mention that Carl survived the Battle of Okinawa, even when his naval vessel sank underneath him. Okinawa was the last large battle of World War II fought in the spring of 1945 (Japan surrendered in August 1945). There is a certain situational irony here: Carl survived a massive naval battle only to die on his boat at home. Art notes that Carl was quiet, perhaps because of his wartime experiences.

Modern readers may not appreciate how much World War II transformed the lives of those who served and lived to tell about it. An estimated 16 million Americans served in the military, and many more worked at home to support the war effort. Everyone faced rationing of food and essential supplies, and many knew someone who had been killed or wounded. While America suffered far less than European countries, the war would have been a defining experience for everyone in this book. Veterans such as Carl and Ishmael Chambers would be treated with a certain respect, even by older men. Note, too, that Art, the sheriff, is over 50 and would have been too old to serve in the war.

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