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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 9

Summary

Etta Heine, Carl’s mother, takes the stand. Born in Bavaria, Etta grew up on a dairy farm. She eloped with Carl’s father, Carl Sr., to the Pacific Northwest. She worked as a seamstress, while Carl Sr. worked in a foundry in Seattle. When Carl Sr.’s father died in October 1944, they took over his strawberry farm on San Piedro Island. Carl Sr. loved strawberries, but Etta felt nothing for them. When Carl Sr. died of a heart attack, she sold the strawberry farm to Ole Jurgensen while Carl Jr. was serving in the war.

Etta tells the jury that Kabuo and his family had picked strawberries on the Heine farm and lived in one of the pickers’ cabins. At the end of the Miyamoto’s third picking season, Kabuo’s father, Zenhichi, asked Carl Sr. to buy 7 acres of the Heine’s land. Etta wants her husband to think hard before selling it. Land is too cheap now, she says. She also asks Carl Sr. if he really wants to sell land to “Japs.” Carl Sr. defends the Miyamotos. They are clean-living people, he says, and it doesn’t matter to him which way their eyes slant.

Carl Sr. sold the land to Kabuo’s father even though legally the Miyamotos could not own any land because of the now defunct Alien Land Law. Carl Sr. would hold the “lease” in his name for the Miyamotos. Judge Fielding explains to the jury that this law stated that no alien, or non-citizen, could hold title to real estate nor could any person hold title for an alien. Additionally, the law prevented Japanese aliens from becoming naturalized citizens. Judge Fielding points out that the arrangement Carl Sr. and Kabuo’s father made circumvented the law. Judge Fielding also notes that the perpetrators were both dead and, therefore, it was not an issue in this case. Etta reiterates once again that “them Japanese couldn’t own land,” and she doesn’t know how the Miyamotos could think they owned hers. Judge Fielding reminds her that this is a murder trial and such matters would have to be taken up in civil court.

Prosecutor Alvin Hooks states that the purpose of reconstructing the events of land ownership is vital to the state’s case as it will illuminate the defendant’s motive for committing murder.

The law allowed Japanese children born in the United States to own land at the age of 20. Because he was the oldest child, the land would be put in Kabuo’s name when he turned 20. He was 12 in 1934 when this arrangement was made. The last payments on the land was due December 32, 1942. Kabuo would turn 20 in November 1942. The Miyamotos missed the last 2 payments.

Etta remembers how Carl Sr. had laid the posting on the table stating that in 8 days, on March 29, the Japanese needed to report with only what they could carry to the docks. The government said it would store their furniture. The first thing Etta thought was there wouldn’t be any pickers next year and perhaps they’d have to get some Chinamen. Her next thought was the Japanese would be selling off everything they could because that was what “those” people did. When Carl Sr. said it wasn’t right, she replied, “They’re Japs. We’re in a war with them. We can’t have spies around.” To this Carl Sr. replied, “We ain't’ right together. You and me, we just ain’t right.” She knew what he meant, but she didn’t answer. He had said it before.

Later, Zenhichi Miyamoto arrives to discuss payments on the land. Zenhichi attempts to make another payment and asks them to farm the land and use the money for payment. Etta argues that the berries won’t bring in enough money. She believes Carl Sr. is being duped. The Japanese acted small and thought big. They were shrewd. Carl Sr. refuses to take the money, telling Zenhichi that he has more important things to think about right now. They can discuss payments when they come back. He hopes everything will work out fine. Zenhichi says that he will find away to make the payments.


As Etta watches him, she notices that, even though Zenhichi has been working in the fields for 10 years, he hasn’t aged a day in contrast to herself who has grown old and weary. Zenhichi knew something that kept him from aging, and he kept it to himself.

They didn’t meet their payments, she tells the jury. She sold the land and sent the Miyamotos back their money. She felt she was right, and her husband was wrong. Kabuo had killed her son. She told the court that where money was concerned you were never “shut of people” and because of this her son had been murdered.

Notes

In this chapter, we get to see prejudice at its worse. Etta Heine, an immigrant of German descent, has never hid her dislike and distrust of the Japanese. Despite, their clean way of life and their hard working nature, she doesn’t want to sell them any land. She shows no compassion when they are forced into interment camps, and, in fact, the first thing she thinks about is how it is going to affect her. She also shows that her racial prejudice is motivated by jealousy, caused by a lack of understanding of the Japanese lifestyle and culture. Zenhichi, unlike her, does not physically appear to age despite working in the fields. Having never taken the time to learn about the Japanese culture and lifestyle, Etta does not realize that Zenhichi’s failure to age is partly based on how he lives, his beliefs, and how these are manifested in this thoughts and habits. She didn’t know if it was his religion or perhaps his blood, whatever the mystery, the “distance from what she was,” it was a “secret” that he was unwilling to share with her.

When her husband dies, she completely disregards the arrangement made between Zenhichi and sells the land without hesitation, feeling justified in that she had the backing of the law.

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