Summary and Analysis Chapters 20-21


Chapters 20 and 21 are the memories and testimony of Carl's widow, Susan Marie. She is strategically placed as the last witness because Alvin Hooks knows how the jury will respond: "The men especially would not wish to betray such a woman with a not-guilty verdict at the end of things." The prosecution will rest its case after Susan Marie's testimony. At first, instead of direct testimony, readers experience Susan Marie's memories. Basically, Carl Heine and Susan Marie had a marriage based on sex. Susan Marie viewed Carl and herself as a good match and considered her husband a good father.

Susan Marie's memories also provide readers with a portrait of Carl Heine. Carl was "silent and dependable," a man who worked nights fishing and took care of his family during the day. Ever since the war, Carl was unable to speak to anyone, especially about important things. The most Susan Marie could get Carl to admit to was that he and Kabuo were friends before the war.

Under cross-examination, Susan Marie admits to Nels Gudmundsson that most of her testimony was hearsay. Because her husband is dead and cannot speak for himself, this testimony is admissible. Her testimony again raises the notion of right and wrong. The conflict between legality and morality is forefront in these chapters, as well as a major theme of Snow Falling on Cedars. The examples Guterson presents are not so cut and dry, so black and white, which is the exact point he is trying to make about judging situations. Susan Marie can testify only about what she saw and what she heard, but she didn't hear everything that passed between her husband and Kabuo.

Their wartime experiences affected Carl and Kabuo in similar manners. Although these experiences had a profound impact on their lives, they weren't able to share their feelings about their experiences with their wives, nor were they able to consider each other friends. Before the war, the differences in their races didn't matter; after the war, their differences defined them. Carl and Kabuo illustrate the similarities between cultures and the way that similar situations affect dissimilar individuals.


neurasthenia a condition resulting in fatigue, depression, and headaches.

wattle fleshy folds of skin under the chin.

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