Snow Falling on Cedars | Study Guide

David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars | Chapter 6 | Summary



During the trial, Nels Gudmundsson cross-examines Horace Whaley and elicits the following facts:

  • Horace now knows Carl Heine drowned, based on the completed autopsy and the evidence of foam in Carl's lungs.
  • Something narrow and flat caused the head injury, based on the size and shape of the wound. Horace cannot be sure whether something hit Carl or whether Carl was "propelled" into something.
  • Carl had cut his hand shortly before he died, probably within four hours of death.

Watching the trial, Art Moran remembers going out to Carl's house to break the news to Carl's wife, Susan, and their sons. Carl built their house himself, and Art reflects that it shows his "exacting nature" and the fact "he was a builder ... but not an artist." Art knows and admires Susan Heine, so he struggled to break the news to her. Susan's reaction was unusual: she began to rock back and forth, saying, "I knew this would happen one day." She didn't explain whether she expected Carl to die in an accident or be murdered. Art, eager to leave, did not ask questions.


A defense attorney's job is not to prove innocence or solve the case but to create "reasonable doubt," so the jury does not convict. Nels Gudmundsson is doing his best for Kabuo Miyamoto as is his duty as a defense attorney, whether or not Kabuo is truly innocent.

The foam found in Carl's lungs indicates he was breathing when he went into the water; therefore, the cause of death is drowning, not the head injury. However, if Kabuo hit Carl in the head and the blow caused Carl to drown, Kabuo would still be responsible for his death, especially if Kabuo did nothing to prevent Carl from drowning.

Horace Whaley can identify the shape of Carl's wound, but not precisely what caused it. A fishing gaff, which is a long wooden pole with a large hook on one end, could have made the wound. Nels also points out the hand wound and argues that it could be the explanation for blood on the gaff found on Carl's boat.

Art's memories provide more details about Carl. Carl seemed to want to re-create his childhood home: he wanted his house to look like the one he grew up in, and he chose to plant strawberries and raspberries, like his father's farm once had. This later serves as a parallel between Carl and Kabuo, who also wants to re-create the farm his family had when he was young.

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