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'The death of a fisherman in an Island community can test present passions and unearth old prejudices

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  • Essay length: 1088 words
  • Submitted: 16/06/2005
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GCSE David Guterson

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'In a universe where decay is inevitable, suffering and death come unexpectedly, war and social divisions are human traditions, personal ethics are humankind's saving grace.' Discuss this thesis with particular emphasis on the decisions taken by and the behaviour and operation on the consciences of Kabuo, Hatsue and Ishmael.

The novel Snow Falling on Cedars, written by David Guterson, revolves around a racially charged court case involving an innocent Japanese man accused of the murder of a German fisherman. The author explores the human traditions of war and social division and the inevitability of decay, suffering and death, using the murder trial of Kabuo Miyamoto as a focal point. Guterson investigates the way in which personal ethics can transcend the conspiring effects of 'fate, coincidence and accident'1 through the behaviour and disposition of the three main characters of the novel, Ishmael, Hatsue and Kabuo.

Kabuo's trial is a continuation of the white community's conflict with its Japanese neighbours. Prejudice is prevalent on San Piedro Island where whites harbour resentment and hostility towards the Japanese 'aliens'2, but hypocritically profit from the Japanese-American residents' discipline and hard work. Generated by the events of World War II,

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