Snow Falling on Cedars, Impact of War

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David Guterson, in his novel entitled Snow Falling on Cedars, clearly illustrates the harsh and brutal impact of war on many of the central characters in the plot. The novel is set in 1954, on the fictitious Island of San Piedro and follows the trial of Kabuo Miyamoto (a Japanese-American man) accused of the murder of Carl Heine. War is a prominent theme in the text and the effects it has on individuals are vividly detailed by Guterson. Ishmael Chambers, Kabuo Miyamoto and Hatsue Miyamoto are all victims of wartime experience and are forced to battle both external and internal conflicts. In the aftermath of World War Two, these characters are left with underlying prejudices, pain, guilt, bitterness, doubt and altered views and perception of the society in which they live. The protagonist in the novel, Ishmael Chambers becomes an emotionally disconnected shell of his former being, due to his experiences at war.

Ishmael Chambers, is left deeply wounded both physically and emotionally due to his wartime experience. Hatsue describes Ishmael in his youth as having “a heart that is large” and being both “gentle and kind”. However, in the aftermath of war, he is transformed by his devastating experience, “the war his arm, the course of things, it had all made his heart much smaller”. As a 31 year old journalist, reporting on the trial of Kabuo, Ishmael is described as a cynical, bitter and lonely member of the community, “a strange bird to others, someone you cannot speak to”. However it becomes evident that Ishmael is a victim of war and has been drastically impacted on by his personal experiences, “…there was nevertheless this matter of the war – this matter of the arm he lost… he had a chip on his shoulder… It seemed to him that after the war, the world was thoroughly altered”. Guterson then vividly details Ishmael’s traumatic experience at war, “He had seen insides of jaggedly ripped-open people… Ishmael watched them with interest for a while, men spilling out...
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