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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 23

Summary

Ishmael arrives at the lighthouse at Point White to talk to Chief Petty Officer Evan Powell. Ishmael wants to look at some old records to see if they’ve ever had a storm like this one before. Ishmael tries to concentrate on the records, but he cannot forget the image of Hatsue’s eyes meeting his from in the rearview mirror of his car.

The first time he saw Hatsue after the war was in line at the grocery store. He stood in silence behind her hating her. With a baby on her shoulder, she told him she was sorry for the loss of his arm, something no one else in the town had had the courage to say. She was as beautiful as ever, and it hurt Ishmael to look at her. He stared at her baby and hateful said the “Japs” did it. Hatsue looked at him a moment and then turned to pay the cashier. Ishmael immediately told her he was sorry and that she couldn’t trust him when he spoke anymore. He’d put his hand on her shoulder. Hatsue said nothing and moved away from his hand. He left without buying the items. He went home and wrote a letter of apology, explaining he was no longer himself, he said things he didn’t mean, and he wished he had never said “Jap” in front of her, and he’d never do it again. The letter sat in a drawer for 2 weeks and then he threw it away.

One day he came across her on the beach. She was digging clams while her baby slept on a blanket. Hatsue agreed to talk to Ishmael. He told her he was a dying person and that he had not been happy since the moment she left for the internment camp. He thinks he’s going crazy, and there isn’t anything he can do about it. Hatsue said she was sorry for him, but she didn’t know what she could do to help him. He asked her to let her hold her and smell her hair just one more time. She said she could never touch him again. He had to let go of her. Just once, he pleaded, not out of love but as one human being to another. You’ll have to find some other way, she told him.


It dawned on Ishmael that there might be something in these records pertinent to the case. Excitedly, he searched the cabinets and in 15 minutes found the records. There had been one ship on the night Carl died. The ship’s pilot had radioed the lighthouse for assistance. The ship was out of the lane and would have to bisect Ship Channel Bank, the place where Carl Heine had last been seen. Ishmael realizes that on the night Carl died “an enormous freighter had plowed right through the fishing grounds, throwing before it a wake large enough to knock even a big man overboard.” The records were in triplicate and Ishmael placed a set in the coat of his pocket. Ishmael found out that the men on duty had been transferred; their last night had been September 15 th . The men working at the lighthouse now started on the night of September 16. So no one knew. Carl Heine had drowned, stopping his watch at 1:47. At 1:42, a freighter plowed through the channel throwing a wall of water big enough to toss him overboard. Now, one person, Ishmael, did know the truth.

Notes

The first meeting between Ishmael and Hatsue after the war is marred by Ishmael’s hatred for Hatsue and the hurt of losing her. His hatred is displayed through the most convenient and perhaps hurtful fashion - a racist remark. Hatsue may have been the only person able to help him cope with his war experiences, but he immediately alienates her. Ishmael then makes the situation worse by asking Hatsue to let him hold her. Married with children, Hatsue does not find this acceptable. There relationship is left at an impasse. Ishmael is unable to move on with his life without Hatsue. Now, as the only one who knows the truth of Carl’s death, Ishmael knows he may hold in his hands a future with Hatsue.

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