Summary and Analysis Chapter 14


Chapter 14 chronicles the turning point in Hatsue's life. After her father is arrested, Hatsue and her mother have an important conversation. Hatsue doesn't know the extent of her mother's knowledge, but clearly Hatsue's attempts to conceal her relationship with Ishmael during the past four years haven't been entirely successful.

Hatsue benefits from the wisdom of her mother. Even as Hatsue speaks out, contradicting what her mother says to her, Hatsue knows that her mother is a living example of how a Japanese woman is expected to live. Fujiko verbalizes a major difference between Japanese and American cultures. This difference deals with the notion and understanding of the ego. Fujiko believes, as do many Japanese, that the individual is a significant part of a greater whole, and therefore, emphasis is not placed on any one person. In contrast, many Americans believe that their individuality — what separates them from all others — is essential to their understanding of self.

Fujiko is a positive, maternal role model in Snow Falling on Cedars. Same-sex parental role models play an important part in character development. Kabuo and Ishmael each had a father whose examples and attitudes they could follow as they matured, and although Hatsue learned from Mrs. Shigemura the ways of the Japanese culture, Hatsue learned how to be a Japanese woman from her mother.

Hatsue is understandably torn between two worlds — "her instincts did not make the kinds of distinctions having Japanese blood demanded" — but the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor is forcing Hatsue to decide who she is. When she verbalizes her reaction, her mother demonstrates through actions and words that sometimes it is better not to speak — a connection Hatsue immediately makes to the silence she has been keeping about her romance.

After her father is arrested, Hatsue has to start considering herself either American or Japanese, and she initially favors the country of her birth. But Fujiko reminds Hatsue of her blood and her upbringing, leaving Hatsue more confused than ever. As she puzzles over her Japanese heritage and her illicit romance with Ishmael, she thinks "If identity was geography instead of blood — if living in a place was what really mattered — then Ishmael was a part of her . . . as much as anything Japanese."

Hatsue remains torn and confused as she and Ishmael prepare to deal with their separation, for she knows that the Japanese-Americans will be moved from the island. The day before they are separated, they share a moment as one. Ironically, the moment Ishmael is physically closest to Hatsue — penetration during intercourse — also results in the moment that he is farthest from her spiritually. "No, Ishmael, no Ishmael, never," she told him as she pushed him away from and out of her.

Hatsue is clearly no longer interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with Ishmael. What is not so clear is the reason why. Is Hatsue choosing her ancestry over her present-day life? Is she reacting to the problems in the world? Or is she merely taking the easy way out? Is Hatsue afraid of taking a chance with Ishmael, a hakujin? How readers answer the preceding questions determines how Hatsue is viewed as a character. In order for Hatsue to be a sympathetic character, she has to be making a tough decision that she truly feels is the correct one.


shakuhachi a bamboo flute.

kimono a loose robe that fastens with a wide sash.

stevedores persons who load and unload cargo ships.

vole a short-tailed, mouselike rodent.

salal a small shrub of the Pacific Coast, having edible dark purple berries about the size of a common grape.

Back to Top