Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 20 | Summary



This chapter is seen mostly through the eyes of Susan Heine, Carl Heine's wife. She grieves deeply for her husband, but the prosecutor asks her to testify in court. Susan testifies that Kabuo Miyamoto came to their house about a week before Carl's death. Susan is honestly friendly and welcoming to Kabuo, but Carl and Kabuo talk outside. Susan does not know exactly what they talk about.

Susan and Carl have a passionate sex life and a reasonably happy marriage, but she knows he will not discuss certain topics with her, including Kabuo. Susan believes "that after all this time they held inside at least the memory of their friendship." Yet Carl says they "got into a scrap" over the land. He says Kabuo is a "Jap"; he doesn't hate "them," but doesn't like them, either. Susan tells him, "You don't mean that," but she doesn't know exactly how Carl feels or what they said to each other.


Susan Heine is a strikingly beautiful woman, though she worries her beauty is fading, like Hatsue Miyamoto. In fact, Susan and Hatsue have many things in common. David Guterson is most explicit in describing the sex lives of the two principal married couples, establishing the strong connection felt between each husband and wife. Additionally, both men struggle with their demons from the war and both wives feel cut off from their husbands at certain times.

Unlike Etta Heine, Susan does not resent Kabuo Miyamoto. She invites him in and offers him coffee. When Carl calls Kabuo a "Jap," she contradicts him. But she isn't completely sure how he feels, and Carl won't discuss it: "It was forbidden ... to open up her husband's wounds and look at them unless he asked her to." Unlike Etta, Susan doesn't hate or distrust Kabuo, but she can't entirely clear him. Susan's perspective on Kabuo helps to broaden the reader's understanding of the townspeople and the ways in which they interact with one another. This chapter also drives home that men like Carl are neither wholly good nor bad, but that if he might be more open with his wife, he might find greater happiness. Such hope may still remain for Kabuo.

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