Notes on Characters from Snow Falling on Cedars

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Snow Falling on Cedars Major Characters

Kabuo Miyamoto: Kabuo is a strong, stoic Japanese-American accused of the murder of Carl Heine. Kabuo is married to Hatsue, the beautiful woman Ishmael Chambers has loved for most of his life. Kabuo is honest and ethical, though given to anger. Trained in kendo stick fighting, Kabuo is a war veteran who is capable of killing and prizes his abilities as a fighter, but still has nightmares about what he saw in the war. He values a traditional and simple life, and longs to work the strawberry fields his father worked before him. Accused of murder mainly out of racism, Kabuo maintains a coldly rigid stance throughout the trial, hoping to appear calm. Instead, he appears removed and uncaring and, above all, fundamentally different from the other townspeople.

Carl Heine: The dead fisherman at the center of the novel’s mystery. Carl Heine is a large, imposing, but seemingly kind and polite man. An expert fisherman who is happily, passionately married to the beautiful Susan Marie, Carl had no known friends but no enemies. He was friendly with Kabuo when they were children, but the war seemed to affect him, making him unable to have easy friendships any longer.

Ishmael Chambers: Another war veteran in love with Hatsue Miyamoto. Ishmael met her when he was a boy and has been unable to forget her ever since. When she rejected him and then he lost his arm in the war, he quickly became an embittered, lonely young man who felt alienated from the rest of society. Full of self-hatred and believing he will never live up to the legacy of his ethical newspaper-owner father, Ishmael is miserable. When he finds evidence that proves Kabuo is innocent, however, Ishmael finds a way to redeem himself, both for Hatsue and in his own mind.

Hatsue Miyamoto: Hatsue Miyamoto, born Hatsue Imada, is a beautiful woman married to Kabuo Miyamoto. Hatsue was romantically involved with Ishmael when she was a girl, but eventually realized he was wrong for her, and married Kabuo, who she viewed as a strong, kind man who would make a good husband. She wanted from a young age to please her mother and her other elders. She yearned for the stillness and calm that her elders taught her.

Minor Characters

Alvin Hooks: Prosecutor in the case against Kabuo Miyamoto. Mr. Hooks often uses personal attacks and prejudice to try to implicate Miyamoto in the death of Carl Heine.

Art Moran: Sheriff of Amity Harbor. Art Moran tries to do his job well, but at times this seems to go against his very nature. Squeamish around dead bodies and reluctant to take responsibility for the controversial situation of the trial, Art is often uncomfortable and vaguely feels he may be exposed as incompetent.

Abel Martinson: Sheriff Moran’s deputy. Abel is even more squeamish than Art, and equally ill-suited to his profession. Though he tries to please Art and perform his duties, Abel often makes mistakes or gets in over his head, such as when he tries to help Horace Whaley examine Carl’s dead body and ends up vomiting.

Etta Heine: Carl Heine’s mother. Etta was born in Bavaria and did not like San Piedro very much. She never even liked strawberries. She took advantage of her son’s being away at war to sell the farm to Ole Jurgensen, even though technically the Miyamotos owned it. For years after her husband had died and her other three children moved away, she had lived alone on the island with Carl Junior.

Nels Gudmundsson: Attorney for the defense. Nels is very old and is conscious of how feeble he looks, of how many things he can no longer do. He knows, also, that he is good at his job. He desires to understand the truth of the case, and he knows that racism is at work. He wants to help Kabuo and is honest with him about the danger he is in.

Horace Whaley: The town coroner, Horace is a nervous, businesslike man who is haunted by the people who died in his medical care during the war. He is careful, observant and judgmental of those who are not.

Arthur Chambers: Ishmael’s father, and a highly respected man in San Piedro. Arthur ran an independent newspaper, which he used to voice the Japanese concerns during the internment and the duration of the war. Many Japanese people loved him as a result. Ishmael feels he must live up to his father’s reputation.

Mrs. Shigemura: Hatsue’s teacher when she was a girl. Mrs. Shigemura taught her manners and grace, and told her that she could find peace and happiness in Japanese ways, with Japanese people, and to stay away from white men.

Ole Jurgensen: The old farmer who bought Etta Heine’s land instead of the Miyamotos. Ole didn’t know at the time that the Miyamotos had basically bought the land, and he felt uncomfortable being caught in between the two feuding parties. Once he has a stroke, however, he sells his land to Carl Heine, restarting the feud.

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