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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 24

Summary

Ishmael had once told his mother that, like his father, he was agnostic, meaning he didnít believe one could prove the existence of God, but he did not deny the possibility that God existed. He told he didnít feel what God is. Now, sitting with the coast guard notes in his pocket ďhe tried to feel that intimation of GodĒ he had felt when he was younger but he couldnít. After the war, he had tried to feel God and take solace in him, but it hadnít worked. He felt it was a ďpathetic falsehood.Ē

He spent the night at his motherís house. He wondered if he should tell his mother about the coast guard notes and then drive to town to tell Judge Fielding, but he did nothing.

His mother commented that she thought the trial was a shame and that Kabuo had been arrested because he was Japanese. Ishmael lied and said he thought Kabuo was guilty. He told her of the solid evidence the prosecutor had against Kabuo. He also told her how Kabuo sat rigid, unremorseful, proud, and defiant. Ishmael then relates a training lecture he had received. A colonel in the war had explained that a Japanese solider would die fighting rather than surrender. The Japanese were not averse to dying in the way Americans were.

Ishmael acknowledged it was propaganda, but he couldnít help thinking about this lecture as he looked into Kabuoís face. Keep yourself fair, his mother warns. She reminds him that the defense has not presented its case yet and he has already convicted him. Facts are so horribly cold, can we depend on them by themselves, she asks. The facts are all we have he says, emotions float away. She encourages her son to float away with them, if he can find them again.

Ishmael realizes that his fatherís death had fixed grief in his mother, but it had not stopped her from enjoying life. He asks his mother what to do about his unhappiness. She confesses that though she has tried to understand him, she canít. She doesnít know what to do for him. He wanted to tell his mother about Hatsue, but he couldnít. He had never told anyone. She told him if he wanted to be happy, he should get married and have some children.


Ishmael sits on the bed in his old room remembering what it used to look like and thinks of his father. He retrieves the letter Hatsue had written him from the internment camp. Hatsue wrote that she didnít love him. She knew from the very beginning that something was wrong, and she knew with certainty the last day in the cedar tree. She says goodbye and hopes that he can move on with his life as she will. He thought of how it was at the moment his penis entered her that she realized truth. It was strange how she had come to discover she didnít love him while he had come to love her even more.

Ishmael decided that tomorrow he would write the article Hatsue wanted him to and make her beholden to him. Then, he would speak to her as one who had been on her side, giving her no choice but to listen.

Notes

In earlier chapters, we learned the role religion played in the lives of Hatsue and Kabuo. In this chapter, we find that it plays no role in Ishmaelís behavior. Though, he attended church as a child and at one time felt God, he can no longer do so. In this same chapter, Ishmael seeks his motherís advice on how to be happy. Get married and have children, she replies. But, we canít help but question whether it is that simple. Can Ishmael be happy married to someone besides Hatsue? The introduction of God in this chapter begs the question as to whether belief in a higher power is also necessary to be happy.

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