Snow Falling on Cedars By David Guterson Summary and Analysis Chapter 11

Until now, readers have experienced Kabuo only as the jurors and courtroom observers have seen him — silent and stoic. What readers know of Kabuo has been revealed from Hatsue's point of view. In Chapter 11, for the first time, events are told from Kabuo's point of view, but they're not the events surrounding Carl's death. Instead, Kabuo remembers the war.

The war — not this trial — is the defining event of Kabuo's life. He, like many other men at Manzanar, had a need to fight for the country that had turned its back on him. Kabuo saw enlisting in the military as a matter of honor. Kabuo views himself as a man who had "forever sacrificed his tranquility in order that they [inhabitants of San Piedro] might have theirs." Islanders don't view him that way, for most see his composure as a sign of defiance. This composure, however, is really Kabuo's cover for raging emotions — anger and guilt — that Kabuo keeps hidden inside.

Kabuo feels guilty because he killed four Germans during the war, with the first one haunting his memories. After the war, Kabuo returned to San Piedro as scarred as every other veteran. Serving in the military was the honorable thing to do, but nonetheless, Kabuo came home considering himself a murderer. He felt the need to atone for his actions and thus longed for punishment and suffering.

Sitting in the courtroom, Kabuo was trying to follow his father's teaching, "the greater the composure, the more revealed was one." Although he was trying to project this demeanor, the people in the courtroom saw something different. Islanders, especially the jurors, didn't trust composure. This misinterpretation of a person's behavior is another example of a cultural conflict.

Another difference between cultures is the manner in which death is treated. The Japanese view of life embraces death rather than fears it. For the most part, Kabuo accepts this philosophy and tries to live accordingly, but when the reality sinks in that Alvin Hooks would seek the death penalty if Kabuo were found guilty of murder, Kabuo does fear death.

After remembering his combat experiences, Kabuo reflects on his relationship with Hatsue. He remembers seeing her in the strawberry fields and in the classroom, loving her from afar. Their relationship developed slowly at Manzanar, but when he found out that they both had the same innermost desires, his feelings moved toward love.

The relationship between Kabuo and Hatsue illustrates the differences between cultures in the way love is viewed. Kabuo falls in love with Hatsue for different reasons than Ishmael. Love is secondary to honor because honor defines who a person is; Kabuo and Hatsue loved each other for who they were, even though for Kabuo this meant he had to enlist in the army. If Kabuo did not enlist, then he wasn't being true to himself. And if he were not true to himself, he wouldn't be worthy of Hatsue. Kabuo falls in love with Hatsue because, ultimately, they have the same goals and dreams. Their love was based on mutual respect and understanding. Kabuo didn't spend nearly the amount of time with Hatsue as Ishmael did, but that issue wasn't important to him.

A very significant point revealed during Kabuo's memories is that Hatsue asked Kabuo to marry her. She initiated their union, knowing full well that he was leaving. Hatsue makes this decision, which may have been made in haste, as a means for helping her get over Ishmael. She also may have made the decision because she finally knows what she wants.

Kabuo's final memories are of his training at age seven with the kendo stick. His great-grandfather was a samurai. Kabuo practiced in the fields before going to work. He would practice all of his moves, including "the most common of kendo strokes, a horizontal thrust a right-handed man could propel with great force against the left side of his enemy's head." Kabuo is right-handed. After the war, his stick still provided him solace and comfort, and he practices in the fields late at night as a way of trying to deal with his guilt.

Glossary

katana a curved Japanese sword worn by samurais with the edge up.

scabbard the sheath for a sling sword; for Japanese aristocracy, this item was often highly decorated.

kendo a bamboo or wooden stick used for the Japanese sport of fencing.

sageo a personal flag.

obi a belt, or sash.

hakama pleated trousers that appear to be a skirt.

bokken a curved wooden sword.

dojo an exercise hall.

zenshin constant awareness of impending danger.

samurai the warrior aristocracy of Japan.

Meiji restoration the return of the imperial family in 1867 as rulers of Japan after the overthrow of the shogun; this period changed the feudal state into an industrialized and Westernized nation and brought about the abolition of samurai.

Great Wheel a symbol for all life, circulating and rotating throughout time.

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Although visibly composed in the courtroom, Kabuo feels guilt and anger over what incident?




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