The first part of this chapter is significant for what Ishmael does not do: He does not tell his mother, he does not go to the judge, and he does not do anything at all about the information. Ishmael needs to decide what to do, and while he is deciding, he takes some kerosene and groceries to his mother.
Discussions with his mother about god and about getting over the war not only characterize their relationship but also provide the basis for additional thematic and character developments. The notion of god and whether one exists calls to mind the issue of free will versus fate. Cultural differences about the makeup of god and ishmael's own ambivalence toward a supreme being do not prevent a god from actually existing. And as ishmael verbalizes his own traumas and inability to "get over" the war, he is explaining the exact condition kabuo is in, as kabuo attempts to deal with his own war-driven guilt.
Twice during their conversation Ishmael asks his mother to "tell me what to do." She thinks he is talking about the unhappiness in his life and encourages him to get married and have children. Ishmael may be referring to that aspect of his life, but more pressingly, he is concerned about the notes in his pocket. Unknowingly, his mother, who feels that "they arrested him [Kabuo] because he's Japanese" may be leading Ishmael in a direction she would not mean to lead him: If Ishmael views not doing anything with the notes as the best means to get Hatsue back in his life, then he may do nothing.
Trying to decide what to do, he re-reads Hatsue's breakup letter, and readers get to see its contents for the first time. The letter is honest and forthright and casts Hatsue in a fairly positive light. For Ishmael, the letter serves as a reminder that the brief moment of sexual intimacy was a culmination of opposites for them. For him, it was confirmation of everything that was right; for Hatsue, it was confirmation of everything that was wrong.
Ishmael decides to write the article Hatsue wants in order to make her "beholden to him." He acknowledges that this is not what his father would do, but he is not his father. Ishmael plans on using the paper to his advantage and to keep the records in his pocket.
Sitting alone in the cold room, Ishmael imagines how he will approach Hatsue after the trial, and readers have to imagine that Ishmael may keep the information to himself.
kindling small pieces of wood used to start a fire.
agnostic a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.
Belleau Wood an area in northern France that was the site of a violent two-week battle during World War I; the area is now a memorial to soldiers in the United States armed forces who were war casualties.
tin lizzie slang for a Ford Model T automobile.
Bendix a radio built by U.S. inventor Vincent Bendix.
rice paper delicate paper made from rice straw.