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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 20

Summary

After 3 months, Susan Marie Heine had not grown accustomed to being a widow. She was mournfully attractive, dressed from head to toe in black and shrouded behind a veil. Susan had the air of a recently widowed German baroness who had not forgotten how to dress well. But, she suggested grief not just in her appearance, but her spirit as well. Prosecutor Alvin Hooks knew her presence, not what she had to say, would carry great weight on the stand.

She met Carl because she wanted to. A woman on the island with her looks could do so if it was done with the proper innocence. At 17, she discovered that she could shape a man’s behavior with her behavior because of her appearance. But, she did not flirt, and she insisted that the two other boys she dated before Carl be polite and reserved.

She knew within 3 months of marrying Carl that she had made an excellent choice. “In his grave, silent veteran’s way he was dependable and gentle.” He was an attentive lover, who quest was to ensure her satisfaction. Susan believed that their sex life had been at the heart of their marriage.

Susan testifies that Kabuo came to ask about the 7 acres of land. Carl told him he would have to think about it. His mother would be very upset. When he mentioned Kabuo giving his mother the dirty looks and mean faces, Kabuo just froze and wouldn’t look him in the eye. It had never been clear to Susan whether Carl and Kabuo were friends or enemies. This was the first time she had ever seen them together and she felt there still remained feelings between them, but she couldn’t truly tell. Carl didn’t speak of the matter between the families. Sometimes this silence pained Susan. Carl told her more than once how he couldn’t speak since the war. Carl was now a lonely man that understood the boat, sea, and his hands better than his mouth and heart.


Carl then said he guessed she didn’t care if he sold the land. She didn’t want to move. Carl needed far more room than his boat and sea could offer. The sea was no substitute for the green fields he’d grown up on. To put his memories of the Canton going down and men drowning while he watched, he needed to leave his boat and grow strawberries like his father.

Carl admits that it isn’t about his mother. It is because Kabuo is a “Jap.” Carl doesn’t hate Japs, but he doesn’t like them either. Just at this moment, one of their sons was hurt and they had to take him to the Dr. Whaley. They never discussed Kabuo again. Susan realized that it was forbidden for her to open up her husband’s wounds.

Notes

It can be argued that Snow Falling on Cedars is a largely about the male characters, but in this chapter, we learn a little more about Susan Heine. Her beauty captivates men. For example, in chapter 6, Sheriff Moran thinks about her appearance on his way to deliver the news of Carl’s death. And in this chapter, prosecutor Alvin Hooks doesn’t care what Susan has to say rather it is her appearance, her presence, and her demeanor that Hooks wants the jury to see. Susan is not only playing the part of the grieving widow but is genuinely living it. However, this genuineness of grief is lessened by the fact that there marriage in Susan’s own estimation was based solely on their sex life. She wondered and worried what their marriage would be like in the future when sex could not be at the center of it. Susan presents a striking contrast to the other female characters. Hatsue, a former Strawberry Princess, is beautiful as well. But, her beauty is secondary to her identity and the presentation of that identity to others and her love for the men in her life. As for Fujiko Imada and Etta Heine, it is there relationships with their husband and children and their attitudes to the opposite culture that Guterson focuses on.

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