Summary and Analysis Chapters 4-6


An overview of ishmael's life is presented as the particulars of his involvement with the case are disclosed. An omniscient narrator provides background into ishmael's character, describing his father ("an unflagging loyalty to his profession and its principles had made arthur, over the years, increasingly deliberate in his speech and actions, and increasingly exacting regarding the truth"), as well as providing part of the explanation for ishmael's cynicism toward people and life. Ishmael's character contrasts with the fishermen of san piedro, though he is as isolated from the other men on the island as the japanese-americans are.

Ishmael — the only reporter on the island — who is solely responsible for the San Piedro Review, begins to piece together information for his story. A number of fishermen saw Carl Heine early the night before, and a few boats were in the vicinity of the Susan Marie, including Miyamoto's Islander. Art Moran speaks to Ishmael off-the-record; admitting that he needs to investigate some tricky little facts, the sheriff asks Ishmael to print that Carl's death was an accident.

Horace Whaley, the county coroner, is the next witness to testify. He examined Carl's dead body and noticed a few things during his autopsy — most importantly, that Carl Heine was still breathing when he entered the water. Whaley also noticed a wound to Carl's skull behind the left ear; he mentions his suspicions that the gash was administered by someone trained in the art of kendo (stick fighting), suggesting that a Japanese man is guilty of inflicting the wound as he notes, "The majority of Japs . . . inflicted death over the left ear, swinging in from the right." During cross-examination, though, Horace concedes that he couldn't determine whether the wound occurred before or after death, and that Carl's death was due to drowning.

Horace is the first to suggest that a Japanese man was involved with Carl's injury. His suspicions are a combination of the facts and his own history and bias. The unanswered question is "are these racist comments or non-biased facts?" Horace refers to an entire people as "Japs," as did a fisherman who was discussing the incident when Kabuo's boat was mentioned. The fishermen refer to Kabuo by his last name, as a sucker who looks like all the others, or as a Jap; Ishmael is the only one to use Kabuo's first name. Horace also suggested that Art search for "a Jap with a bloody gun butt." His comments upset the sheriff, who considered them an insult.

Though the information about the islanders' racism is overtly provided, vital information for piecing together what happened — like the fact that Ole Jurgensen now owns Carl's father's land — is mentioned in parentheses, almost as an afterthought. As Guterson reveals the separation that exists among the islanders, he's developing an idea about how racism affects the judicial system. Although they live in close physical proximity to one another, the distance between the Whites and the non-Whites is immense.

Sheriff Moran has a difficult time telling Susan Marie Heine about the accident that took her husband's life. Her reaction isn't one that he can anticipate, for after she receives the news, all she is able to say is, "I knew this would happen one day." The sheriff needs to determine whether she's referring to an accident or to murder.


parish beadle a church officer who keeps order during the service.

fly boy a worker whose chief duty is to load and unload the printing presses.

bow-picker a small fishing boat.

mooring lines ropes used to attach a boat to something else.

hull plate a metal plate secured on the front of the floating part of the boat.

drag floats flotation devices used to retard wave motion.

duck loads charges for firearms, designed especially for ducks.

bow gunnel the boat's front, upper edge.

motor abreast to steer a boat beside another.

gaff a handled hook for holding or lifting heavy fish.

piling a long slender column used to carry a vertical load.

silvers the common name of silver salmon, which is prized for its superb taste.

fog run in foggy conditions, sounding the prescribed signal of one long blast and two short blasts with either a foghorn or a bell every two minutes.

fishing scow a large, flat-bottomed boat with broad square ends used chiefly for transporting bulk material.

ambergris used for perfume, these gray secretions come from whale intestines and are found floating on the ocean or the shore.

lee of the cabin the side sheltered from the wind.

fairleads rings through which ropes are passed to guide them.

stanchion an upright post.

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