The day after the bombing of Pearl Habour, Ishmael’s father reported in two separate articles that ‘the island’s Japanese community pledged their loyalty to the United States.
‘ And he emphasized in his editorial the need to remain calm. The editorial closed with one of the major themes of the novel. ‘prejudice and hatred are never right and never to be accepted in a just society. ‘ Discuss this statement using evidence from Snow Falling on Cedars.The bombing of Pearl Habour simply accentuates the prejudice and racism on San Piedro and it is almost as if the islanders feel that the event justifies their actions from feelings that have built up over time. Guterson uses a multi racial society and people often think that this causes people to be more open minded and accepting, however this is not the case. Within this isolated society we can see the tension and almost hatred that has built up between the White Americans and the Japanese Americans.
Ironically though, the author allows us to know that all of the islanders are all immigrants in some way or another which makes the issue seem more than a question of race but the mechanics of human nature and what compels people to behave in such a manner. Gutterson uses the characters and their reactions to the Japanese after Pearl Habour to show the prejudice on the island. It also makes the reader question what a just society actually is and whether it actually exists. The court case is a metaphor for trialling this idea.Ishmael’s father’s opinion of race makes him an impartial character, which is a positive trait to have when controlling the little media there is in San Piedro.
He strives for a fair society unsuccessfully because unfortunately the islanders have already established their own opinions. Arthur uses his newspaper articles as a voice to try and prevent the racism because he is able to see beyond the appearance and origins of other islanders. ‘In light of this, the ‘Review’ points out that those of Japanese descent on this island are not responsible for the tragedy for Pearl Habour.
‘However, by expressing his feelings of not isolating the Japanese people on the island, he manages to isolate himself. The contrary public opinion find his ‘Plain Talk’ column offensive because it is in support of the Japanese Americans, who some of the islanders see as the enemy. ‘Jap lovers get their balls cut off. ‘ The White American’s general opinion is incredibly racist and they refuse to consider the islanders of Japanese consent as American citizens. The insults that they say to Arthur are in such a manner that reflects their narrow minds because they are unintelligent and crude.Ishmael has the same views as his father and is very open minded. He is unable to recognize the difference between races with distinct clarity and this is shown by using the metaphor of the oceans as the different races in the world; ”They mix underneath,’ said Ishmael.
‘It’s all really just one ocean” This shows how his father’s opinions have influenced him but it could also be that he was ‘blinded’ by his love for Hatsue, unable to view the differences between the races in the world.There are several characters who portray the feeling of racism throughout the novel. Many of them use their own feelings of discontent to inflict prejudice upon others. Etta Heine, originally from Bavaria, makes her feelings about the Japanese Americans on San Piedro clear, not only does she cheat the Miyamotos of their land but she accuses Kabuo freely in court over the death of her son. Her prejudice comes from looks, outward appearance is the main difference she feels and it is how she makes the division; ‘Always narrowin’ his eyes at me, giving me his mean face. Etta interprets Kabuo’s appearance in a different way and this shows how her paranoia determines her feelings and how the Japanese attack on Pearl Habour affected the Japanese race as a whole by planting and rooting preconceived opinions within people.However, Etta’s feelings towards other islanders could be used to consolidate her own unhappiness. The reader is told how unhappy she is and how her only remaining son on the island has died; ‘She tried to like San Piedro.
It was damp, though, and she developed a cough, and her lower back began to bother her. Her prejudice is a form of jealousy that comes from her own unhappiness. She distributes her own unhappiness by exerting it upon others, like the Japanese Americans.
However, we feel no sympathy because of her extreme views and because she is such an exaggerated character, in her appearance and character. She personifies the prejudice and hatred felt by people because she expresses it in such a strong manner. Her point of view appears incredibly one sided; ‘…
that Japanese boy had killed him. ‘This does not sway the reader though, despite her being an unreliable narrator because of the manner that she reacts in the court and how she refuses to consider different options. Similarly, Horace Whaley has preconceived ideas of the Japanese based on his experience in the war and he is the one who begins the accusations towards the Japanese people on the island. He performs the autopsy on Carl Heine and uses the injuries to immediately reach a conclusion that the murderer was of Japanese origin because of the manner in which Carl was killed and evidence that Horace has witnessed during the war. …
he ought to start looking for a Jap with a bloody gun butt-a right handed Jap to be precise. ‘ This strong conclusion is evidence of Horace Whaley’s feelings towards the Japanese and the prejudice that is present on the island. It is him who spurs the quest for a Japanese man as the guilty party. This accusation could be based more on his own attitude rather than the evidence of the injuries and his narrow mind is seen because he considers no other possibilities. There are several other examples of racism amongst the other characters and islanders.After the Pearl Habour attack, some of the Japanese are referred to as ‘dirty Japs’. Subscription to ‘The Review’ is cancelled by some islanders; ‘Your newspaper is an insult to all white Americans who have pledged themselves to purge this menace from our mist. Please cancel my subscription.
.. ‘ This shows the mentality of certain islanders, unable to differentiate between the Japanese government who attacked Pear Harbour and the Japanese Americans who have lived on the island for generations in some cases.The quote, ‘Prejudice and hatred are never right and never to be accepted in a just society’, does not state that this prejudice and hatred does not exist in society, it states that it shouldn’t be accepted. This therefore shows that Arthur is aware of the extent of the racism on San Piedro but speaks out against it.
However, it is evident that this prejudice and hatred is accepted within their society. Horace Whaley’s conclusion to look for a Japanese man for the suspect in Carl Heine’s murder is not questioned as being racist but it is accepted and the task is carried out.The fact that there is no doubt that it could be another white American who could have been responsible for the murder, shows how narrow minded some of the citizens and even the police department are. Similarly, the way in which Etta Heine twists the truth about the Miyamoto’s payments for the strawberry fields is hardly questioned in the court room.
It is almost as if her wrong doing is seen as acceptable because she is subjecting her unhappiness upon the Japanese Americans. The court case and this novel actually trial the idea of a just society subtly, whether it exists and whether it is possible to achieve.It isolates the characters, like Ishmael and Arthur, whose opinions are correct and they understand the importance of accepting those people from different races. This shows the backwards manner in which their society exists, how those who are right and retain their morals are consequently made outcasts. In conjunction with this theory of the isolation of particular white Americans the same happens to the Japanese Americans. They abide by the law, work hard and do little to offend the other islanders but they are isolated because of their appearance.
The main similarity between Ishmael and Arthur is pointed out by Ishmael’s mother; ‘He loved humankind dearly and with all his heart, but he disliked most human beings,’ she told Ishmael. ‘You’re the same, you know. You’re your father’s son. ‘ This is very important because these are two characters who do not find difficulty in accepting those of different race into their society.
It seems to state that they appreciate humankind as a whole but it is the individuals that they do not like. This means that they can accept races in their entirety but it is certain individuals, which they dislike.Therefore, it is more like they judge on personality rather than appearance and nationality and they dislike how certain individuals have corrupted humankind by creating the racism that exists in certain societies. Arthur isolates himself by almost protecting the isolated and this makes him an impartial character. He is not in favour of the Japanese Americans or the white Americans but he fights for justification when the citizens do not see the difference between Japanese Americans and the Japanese government. He does not isolate himself purposefully like Ishmael does, but by with holding certain morals and voicing his opinions.
Others do not agree with his ideas and therefore Arthur is the outsider. Prejudice and hatred are accepted within San Piedro’s society because it is not just. The isolated nature of it has created overprotective citizens who will defend their island using racism as a method. If they see threat they use others as scapegoats, like the Japanese and this has been seen in reality, for example Hitler using the Jews as scapegoats.
The quote and the novel show that society in general cannot be just when people use race to create divides still and place blame.