Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 27 | Summary



Kabuo Miyamoto is getting himself into more trouble by refusing to tell the truth. His lawyer, Nels Gudmundsson, approaches him with the evidence of the bloody gaff and his mooring rope, evidence that points to his guilt. After two private sessions pleading with Kabuo to reveal the truth, he finally does so. Nels is able to convince him the truth will give him a chance at freedom, but continuing with lies dooms him. Readers finally learn the whole story of the happenings that night in the fog at sea. The narration takes the form of a flashback, and readers soon realize it is, in effect, Kabuo's account of the night at sea given to the jury and the court. He says he didn't tell his lawyer the truth for a long time because he didn't think anyone would believe him. He was Japanese, and, according to many townspeople, not to be trusted. He tells the court he remembers the night of Carl Heine's death. He helped Carl by giving him a charged battery to replace Carl's dead one. He also remembers that Carl accidentally cut his hand. Carl brought up the sale of the farm and they discussed it. Carl called him a "Jap" and Kabuo retorted, calling Carl a "Nazi." Carl accepted the retort, apologized, and then agreed to sell Kabuo the farmland promised to the Miyamoto family so many years before.


First, note that Hatsue Miyamoto's testimony was very accurate. Kabuo Miyamoto did not lie to her and she did not lie under oath. But he did not tell the truth to the sheriff or Nels Gudmundsson, at least initially. Trusting Hatsue is one thing: she is his wife and Japanese American. Kabuo was far more reluctant to tell two white men, especially men who represent the police and the court and have great power over him.

Carl and Kabuo's interaction is fascinating. At first, their dialogue is strictly business, and they have the casual but practical tone of two professionals—not cold or rude, but not warm, either. Their childhood bonds of friendship seem a thing of the distant past. Kabuo hopes Carl will bring up the land; Carl waits until the problem is solved. Even then, he jokes Kabuo might take his battery back if Carl doesn't offer a good price, and Kabuo smiles and reassures him.

The conversation takes an odd aggressive turn when Carl uses the word "Jap," but Kabuo doesn't blink. Unlike Susan Heine, Kabuo seems to know how to talk to Carl. Perhaps the camaraderie of war makes it is easier to talk because they both suffer from what would today be called post-traumatic stress disorder. They both have to face the ways the war changed things and the way it didn't. In the end Carl apologizes, which may be more important than the land itself. Carl acknowledges "it wouldn't have happened how it did" if he was around—an oblique but honest criticism of his mother's anti-Japanese attitude. Carl and Kabuo are on their way to righting this wrong and ending the "feud" between their families. Only the two of them could have worked this out together.

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