David Guterson and His Use of the Theme of Nature
David Guterson, a young American author, has written two major works regarding aspects of human nature and human emotions. His first publication, a collection of short stories, entitled The Country Ahead of Us, The Country
Behind addresses some of the moral dilemmas that humans face throughout their lives. His first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, narrates the trial of a
Japanese man accused of murdering a white man in the post World War II era.
Throughout his literary works, Guterson uses elements of nature: land, trees, water and especially snow, as literal and metaphorical tools to develop and resolve conflicts. David Guterson uses the same aspects and characteristics of nature in two different ways. First he describes in visual detail the literal or actual effects that elements of nature have on the characters in the story. But more importantly Guterson uses nature to convey substantial and symbolic meaning in the lives of the characters in his stories. One of the elements of nature that Guterson uses as a tool to develop the conflicts in Snow Falling on Cedars are the strawberry fields on the island.
These fields represent an important source of income for the community.
Traditionally the Japanese laborers worked the fields and the white Americans owned the fields. The question of the ownership of seven acres of strawberry fields serves as the apparent motive for the murder of Carl Heine. To a local
Japanese fisherman, Kabuo (accused of murdering Carl Heine), the ownership of this land promises a secure future and ultimately independence. "...she knew that Kabuo wanted a strawberry field.. nothing more than that" (Snow Falling 89). "His dream...was close to him now, his strawberry land, his happiness" (Snow
Falling 456). The strawberry fields connected Kabuo to his past and symbolized a continuity of life. "My father planted the fathers of these (strawberry) plants" (Snow Falling 362). Guterson