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Course Hero. "Snow Falling on Cedars Study Guide." August 11, 2017. Accessed December 10, 2018.


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Snow Falling on Cedars | Quotes


He loved humankind dearly and with all his heart, but he disliked most human beings.

Helen Chambers, Chapter 4

Ishmael Chambers's mother, Helen, describes her husband, Arthur Chambers, and says her son is very much like him. The contrast between loving humanity and disliking most humans is unexpected but interesting. Arthur Chambers saw both the good of human beings and the individual idiosyncrasies and petty hatreds people can possess. Ishmael works in the opposite way: he is so focused on an individual (Hatsue Miyamoto), he can't consider the greater good—saving an innocent man from a false accusation.


A human sacrifice who allowed the festivities to go forward with no uttered ill will.

Narrator, Chapter 7

The narrator describes the Strawberry Princess, a Japanese girl crowned during the annual Strawberry Festival. Phrases such as "human sacrifice" and "no uttered ill will" suggest high tension and animosity between the Japanese and the non-Japanese islanders. They put a good face on things during the festival, but there are resentments that even a celebration and a beautiful girl can't conceal.


It was not only that her beauty moved him but that they already had a history.

Narrator, Chapter 8

Ishmael Chambers associates Hatsue Miyamoto with the place he has loved since childhood. When he loses her later, he is, in a way, losing touch with his entire childhood and this beloved place. That is why he fixates on her and can't move on for a long time, until he finally is able to recognize who he was and what he had without her.


At school they were strangers ... it had to be that way because she was Japanese and he wasn't.

Narrator, Chapter 8

The narrator tells readers Ishmael Chambers rarely acknowledges that racial prejudice affected his relationship with Hatsue Miyamoto. He builds fantasies of how they will move to Seattle and live happily ever after, but even he knows at that time their relationship will not be accepted by most people.


To me it don't make one bit of difference which way it is their eyes slant.

Carl Heine Sr., Chapter 9

Carl Heine Sr.'s language is blunt, even crude, but he makes an eloquent point. He appreciates the Japanese residents such as the Miyamotos for who they are—hard-working farmers. Their ethnicity or strangeness does not matter to him, unlike Etta Heine.


He saw only darkness after the war ... everywhere but in the smell of strawberries.

Narrator, Chapter 11

Like all the veterans in the book, Kabuo Miyamoto is haunted by the war. He is also embittered by what happened to his family, and he sees hatred and pain almost everywhere. Note that the first positive thing he thinks of is "the smell of strawberries." Before he even thinks of his wife and children, who he loves very much, he thinks of strawberries and the farm he should have had.


My face is the face of the people who did it—don't you see what I mean?

Hatsue Miyamoto, Chapter 13

Hatsue Miyamoto, like many Japanese Americans, finds herself in a difficult place during the war. She cannot stop being Japanese—it is evident in her face. German Americans could blend in with other white citizens, but Japanese Americans, no matter how loyal, were easy to spot, and became targets for abuse and mistrust.


From there it was not far at all to the Japan they had left behind.

Narrator, Chapter 14

Hatsue Miyamoto reflects that she still has "one foot in her parent's home" and the emotional distance between her parents' home and Japan was not large. She feels if she chooses Ishmael Chambers she must give up being Japanese. She doesn't love him enough to do that. Kabuo Miyamoto feels "right" to her because they have a shared culture and shared dreams.


Love was nothing close to what she'd imagined ... less dramatic and far more practical.

Narrator, Chapter 15

Hatsue Miyamoto's mother had a very difficult start to her marriage. She traveled to America to marry a man she'd never met, only to find he'd lied to her. Eventually, she marries him and comes to love him, but the experience informs this idea of love as something practical and undramatic. Hatsue's marriage is more romantic than her mother's, but she, too, makes a practical decision: she and Kabuo Miyamoto have a common culture and similar goals for the future. Ishmael Chambers loved her, but he was so busy loving her, he never gave a thought to how their relationship might work outside the cedar tree. Kabuo's practicality might be very appealing.


You went numb, Ishmael. And you've stayed numb all these years.

Helen Chambers, Chapter 24

Helen Chambers is essentially describing depression, which was undoubtedly part of her son Ishmael Chambers's postwar reaction. "Numb" suggests a lack of feeling, but also a lack of movement—a numbed limb is difficult to walk on—which captures Ishmael's inability to move forward emotionally.


The shape of Kabuo Miyamoto's eyes ... these things must not influence your decision.

Nels Gudmundsson, Chapter 29

In his closing argument, Nels Gudmundsson makes an eloquent plea for the jurors to reject prejudice. Note that he mentions Kabuo Miyamoto's eyes, just as Carl Heine Sr. had once said: he didn't care "which way their eyes slant." In the war years, many racist caricatures of Japanese people emphasized their eyes; Nels is asking the jurors to look past the caricatures and the newsreel footage of Japanese prisoners of war to see Kabuo as a man.


His passion ... tangible as the phantom limb he'd refused for so long to have denervated?

Narrator, Chapter 30

Ishmael Chambers sometimes imagines pain in the amputated part of his arm. A doctor offered to deaden the nerves, but Ishmael won't let that happen. In the same way, he won't let go of what happened with Hatsue Miyamoto, either. Both pains—Hatsue and his arm—hamper his ability to move on with his life.


The world was silent and cold and bare ... in this lay its terrible beauty.

Narrator, Chapter 31

Ishmael Chambers has been longing to return to the world of his youth, but at this moment, as he revisits the cedar tree where he and Hatsue Miyamoto used to meet, he accepts the world as an adult. Ishmael recognizes that the world can be cold and hard and yet beautiful; in the same way, his father "loved humankind dearly" and yet "disliked most human beings." The ability to hold both competing ideas in his head shows that Ishmael is finally moving on. In the same way, he is able to accept that Hatsue could admire him and yet not love him the way he loved her.


The heart of any other, because it had a will, would remain forever mysterious.

Narrator, Chapter 32

Throughout the book, characters have longed to know what other characters are feeling. Ishmael Chambers in particular wanted to know what Hatsue Miyamoto was feeling. Now, in the end, he finally accepts that someone else's heart will always be "mysterious." Perhaps Ishmael can be content trying to know his own heart.


Accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.

Narrator, Chapter 32

The narrator says that what happens in the heart is no accident. Ishmael Chambers and Hatsue Miyamoto were meant to love each other for a time, but they were meant to move on and live separate lives. Notice the use of Ishmael's last name— Chambers—the heart has chambers, too, but this phrasing ties the idea more deeply to Ishmael's heart and his acceptance of the past.

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