Snow Falling on Cedars.

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Jayde Brindley



English Lit

November 2003

What is the significance of the island setting and the weather in Snow falling on Cedars”? How does Guterson use the environment in which the novel is set to deepen our understanding of events?

“Snow falling on cedars” is placed in the proximity of an insulated, isolated island off the coast of America. It is this seclusion that enhances the communal intimacy and inevitably the polarisation after the events of the war, especially the destruction of Pearl Harbour.  The weather acts as a foundation, representing the change, alienation and blindness throughout the novel.

The island, San Piedro, is self-sufficient with all of the islanders maintaining their lives by working for themselves. It shows the combination of the “closeness” of the community in contrast with the animosity and isolation that remains through judgment between races. It is the isolation of the island that is a metaphor for the isolation of the communities.

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“Snow fell that morning” on the first day of the trial, which is significant as the snow symbolises the duration of the trial. It is ambiguous in its representation as it is often described as “beautiful” and  “rare” and “precious”, allowing an insight to Ismaels’ memory of his childhood with Hatsue but also gains the opposite interpretation of destruction through the “ferocious” weather overturning the cars, which represents the negative and positve sides of all the situations, perceptions and relationships in San Piedro.

The cedar tree is a prominent part of the novel and the relationship between Hastsue and ...

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