Snow Falling on Cedars By David Guterson Summary and Analysis Chapter 31

Ishmael returns to his mother's house, telling her that the jury hadn't reached a verdict. As she clamors that the jury shouldn't be driven by hatred and prejudice, Ishmael ponders his life and his decision. He remembers his father and his father's ways. He recalls working with his father, and re-reads Hatsue's letter.

In doing so, Ishmael comes to understand who he is and his place in the world. He realizes what he has lost was the man he used to be, a man Hatsue admired. He also realizes that his mother is all he has and that he does indeed love his mother. He is struck by the knowledge that when she dies, he will be alone in the world, and ultimately, he decides to take the notes to Hatsue. This action is the climax of the novel.

Providing Hatsue with the notes is the defining moment of Ishmael's life. He had been harboring hate and rage and then nothingness for so long that he prevented himself from living. But just as Hatsue learned from her mother, Ishmael learned from his. His mother never gave up on loving him; he had given up on her and himself. Ishmael's decision signifies significant growth as a person — as a son, a former lover, and a newspaperman. In the search for truth, honor, and justice, Ishmael knew that he had to give the notes to Hatsue.

Glossary

manifest destiny a future event accepted as inevitable; in the mid- nineteenth century, expansion to the Pacific was regarded as the Manifest Destiny of the United States.

Horatio Alger (1832-1899) American writer of boys' stories.

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