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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Notes
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The state rests it case. Ishmael slowly leaves the courtroom and walks to his office, where nothing is working. His missing arm felt as if it was still there half-numb as if his mind did not grasp it was gone. A doctor had suggested denervation, or doing away with the limb’s ability to feel, but whatever feeling in his missing arm he felt, he wanted to feel it.

Ishmael made a mental to do list including checking on his mother and tasks to print the next edition of the paper. Armed with a large box camera, he headed out into the storm. He hated the camera, but there hadn’t been a blizzard like this since 1936 and he felt he must carry it. Though, he felt the storm should not overshadow the trial of Kabuo. It dealt with the actions of humans, “the hands of people,” not an act of nature.

Ishmael carefully drives to his mother’s home, stopping to take pictures of overturned cars and cars in ditches. He had mounted a cherry wood knob on the steering wheel to help him, but he had changed nothing else on the car. His father had bought it 15 years ago and driving it reminded Ishmael of his father.

He passed Ole Jurgensen’s house. The 9 inches of snow made Kabuo’s cherished 7 acres indistinguishable from the rest of the land. “All human claims to the landscape were superseded, made null and void by the snow.”

Hisao Imada, Hatsue’s father, and Hatsue were digging Hisao’s car out of a drainage ditch. Ishmael convinces them to let him give them a ride home. Hatsue purposely concentrated on the snow outside her window. She met his eye briefly in the rearview mirror. He was unable to read the expression on her face. He wanted to ask her what she was trying to say. What had he done to her? His anger had dried up and blown away. He had found nothing to replace it. He had taught himself in the best way he could that she was a married woman with children. Yet, he still vaguely felt that she would return to him and this was “an interim between the years he had passed and would pass again with Hatsue.”

Hatsue wanted him to write in his newspaper how this trial was unfair. The strain and hostility between them was better than nothing; it was an emotion they shared. He realized that Kabuo was going out of her life like he had once, in circumstances beyond anyone’s control.


The snow once again symbolically depicts the characters and their situations. The snowstorm has turned into a blizzard and wreaks havoc on the small island. Trees have fallen, cars are in ditches, and the power is out. The islanders are at the snow’s unpredictable mercy, just as Kabuo is at the mercy of fellow citizens in circumstances that are beyond his control if he is innocent. As Ishmael passes Ole Jurgensen’s farm, he notices that Kabuo’s 7 acres of land are “indistinguishable from the land that surrounded them. All human claims to the landscape were superseded, made null and void by the snow. The world was one world, and the notion that a man might kill another over some small patch of it did not make sense...” The snow covers the land Kabuo desires, making it like any other piece of land and something not worth killing another human for. Yet, Ishmael realized that people do kill over land as evidence by the wars that have been fought over land. The land is also buried under snow. At this point in the novel, the truth is still buried. The prosecution has presented evidence of Kabuo’s guilt. But, Nels Gudmundsson cross-examinations have shown were that evidence is weak, leaving the truth buried under the facts.

Hatsue is also at the unpredictable mercy of the snow when her father’s car becomes stranded. Ishmael realizes that Hatsue may lose Kabuo over circumstance that she cannot control, just as she cannot control the snow and the accidents it causes.

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Free Study Guide-Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson-Book Summary


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