Summary and Analysis
Essential information about Hatsue's character is revealed in Chapter 7, first by recounting the general history of the Japanese arriving on San Piedro Island and then by describing the specifics of the arrival of Hatsue's family. Both situations provide insight into what living in an oppressed culture was like. Nameless Japanese immigrants worked in the wood mill on the island; after it closed, strawberries became the immigrants' main source of income. Readers experience the difficult life Hatsue endured as one of five daughters, all of whom worked diligently in the strawberry fields. Her parents were berry farmers who valued both hard work and the traditions of their birth country.
When Hatsue was thirteen, her mother sent her to Mrs. Shigemura for training in the ways of Japanese women, as a reminder that she herself is Japanese and should think of herself that way. Mrs. Shigemura taught Hatsue the Japanese traditions, customs, and beliefs, often by contrasting them to the American culture.
This training provided Hatsue with internal conflicts. Outwardly, she learned to display the tranquility of Japanese culture, but inwardly she yearned for an American lifestyle. Ironically, Hatsue also desired to eliminate this yearning. Hatsue recognized both her Japanese and American influences and wanted to favor her ancestry, but her American influence enabled her to have a high school romance with Ishmael. She grew up with Ishmael, yet because of the their differences, they weren't friends in public, especially during their romance. If American influences enabled Hatsue to have a love affair with Ishmael, then her Japanese influences enabled her to forget him.
Although Hatsue was born and grew up on San Piedro — and thus was an American — she and her family were ushered to Manzanar, an internment camp, with all San Piedro's other residents of Japanese descent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the camp, Hatsue and Kabuo married. Eight days later he left to fight for the Americans in World War II.
During a break in the trial, when Hatsue is talking with Kabuo, she comments on the snowfall. Snow is used not only to mark the passing of time — she tells Kabuo, "A big snow. Your son's first" — but also to segue into memories of Manzanar. In Hatsue's memories, Kabuo isn't mentioned until Manzanar. In the narrative, only after they're married does she recall who he is and why he's a perfect match for her. In Kabuo, Hatsue finds a man who wants what she wants, and although during her first kiss with Kabuo her mind wanders to a memory of Ishmael, her romantic feelings for Ishmael are long dead.
The abruptness of their marriage challenges the reader: Why so quickly? The details about the romance between Ishmael and Hatsue aren't fully revealed yet, and it isn't clear whether this marriage is an action or reaction on Hatsue's behalf. The difficulty in the relationship between Hatsue and Ishmael is determining the extent of investment both parties had in the relationship and who, if anyone, is at fault for the romance's disintegration.
In the courtroom, as Hatsue talks with Kabuo, Ishmael observes Hatsue's interaction with her husband, and the reporter can't help but remember growing up with Hatsue. Unlike Hatsue, Ishmael was in love and was determined to keep that feeling forever. Ishmael fondly remembers their first kiss, and then the second, years later. He recalls how Hatsue avoided him, so he ended up spying on her. Finally, he followed her into the woods, to a hollow cedar where they played together years earlier — a site that would again become their meeting place, this time as high school sweethearts.
In that tree Hatsue encourages Ishmael; she is the one who says, "I'm not sorry about it" when referring to the kiss they shared. But at this time in Hatsue's life, she's torn between two worlds. Hatsue needs to experience an American relationship as a way to fully experience both cultures. During their time together, Hatsue knows that the relationship won't last, using the analogy of an ocean to explain her feelings. When she tells him, "Oceans don't mix," it's no coincidence that she uses color to explain her understanding of the difference — a surface-level reference to skin color, which symbolizes their greater cultural differences.
Ishmael, in contrast, claims, "It's all really just one ocean," yet even during their romance, Ishmael and Hatsue didn't mix at school or in the berry fields. In both locations they don't even acknowledge one another's presence. And he accepts that. Chapters 7 and 8 provide the contrasts that affect Hatsue and Ishmael — not only during their romance but also for the rest of their lives. Hatsue is the one who questions whether their relationship may be wrong. Neither she nor Ishmael say whether they think their association is wrong, but they do concede that their friends and parents wouldn't approve. Instead of answering the question outright, they kiss. And Ishmael decided to "love Hatsue forever no matter what came to pass" and does just that. He inaccurately "felt certain Hatsue felt the same way."
Ishmael never really knew Hatsue; readers, however, get inside her mind, a place Ishmael can never access. She wants Kabuo, but she also needs him. Kabuo would provide for her the life of "composure and tranquility of an island strawberry farmer." Hatsue decided that she needed a purpose in her life and a purpose in her love. As a result, she married Kabuo and chose to lie to him when he asked her whether she had ever kissed someone. Hatsue knew that her loyalty is to her husband, and she assures Kabuo, "You're my only" when he asked whether she'd ever experienced a sexual relationship.
Another problematic aspect of the interracial love story is the fact that Hatsue seemingly makes a logical decision regarding what she wants from life and from a husband; yet, in most Western cultures, love is neither explained nor understood in terms of logic, but rather in terms of emotion. This contrasting understanding of love illustrates the difficulties of pursuing an interracial romance.
In addition to developing the characters of Hatsue and Ishmael, Chapters 7 and 8 also provide insight into the views of the islanders. Even in this post-war period, an unwritten law mandates that the Japanese sit in the rear of the courthouse. During the war, most islanders felt that the "exiling of the Japanese was the right thing to do" because "there was a war on and that changed everything." But even before the war, the census takers and mill operators didn't record any of the Japanese by name. Instead they used a numbering system to refer to bodies and not people; attitudes didn't really change. The common perception among the majority of White islanders was that the Japanese were on San Piedro to be used as long as they were useful. In general, even though they were hard workers, those of Japanese descent were neither trusted nor respected.
schooner hands members of the ship's crew.
baishakunin a person who procured homeland brides for Japanese men who lived in the United States.
hakujin Japanese term for Caucasians.
schottische a round dance resembling a slow polka.
bacchanal drunken revelry.
potlatch a social event.
Tojo a celebrated Japanese general of World War II.
odori a traditional Japanese dance.
geoduck clams edible clams, sometimes weighing over five pounds.
barnacles difficult-to-remove marine shellfish that attach to rocks, ship bottoms, and other surfaces.
siphon the tubular organ used for drawing in or ejecting fluids.
alder stick a branch from a tree in the birch family.
transits an instrument with a mounted telescope used for measuring angles.
alidades surveying instruments used for determining direction.
pelts the skin and fur of an animal.
creosote the liquid mixture obtained from the heating and cooling of wood tar.
nimbus a circle of light around the head.
dell a secluded hollow or small valley.