Conflicting Perspectives on Snow Falling on Cedars Mirror Society's Critical Nature


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How is the representation of conflicting perspectives an integral part of the texts you have studied? In your response make a detailed comparison of how conflicting perspectives are represented in your prescribed text and the given unseen related text.

The representation of conflicting perspectives heightens awareness about the menaces created by the critical nature of society about specific personal and political matters. The representation of conflicting perspectives is conveyed in Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson through race and justice. Guterson draws upon characterisation and symbolism in order to highlight how the prejudice nature of society affects decisions. Conflicting perspectives are also present in ‘Salute’, a documentary by Matthew Norman that is set in the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games and explores the conflicting perspective of discrimination of race. Through interviews with Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, we are able to see their perspectives versing the Medias on black power.

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A non-linear plot is utilised in Snow Falling on Cedars to provide the thoughts and feelings of multiple characters. Ishmael Chambers has a broken heart and a missing arm which haunts him about war and Hatsue’s rejection. This is also what turns him bitter and resentful and he develops an anti-social shell where he observes others and remains an outsider. Ishmael Chambers is given evidence to change the course of Hatsue’s husband, Kabuo Miyamoto, trial and is left with the decision to either inflict revenge upon Hatsue for her rejection or find the courage and maturity to accept circumstances and exonerate Kabuo Miyamoto in the trial. The conflicting decision Ishmael must make could impact the lives of others and we are able to see how at first Ismael struggles to come to terms with circumstances and chooses revenge but he soon learns that the right thing to do is help Kabuo and move on with his life. Hatsue Imada suffers internal conflict when deciding whether to follow her Japanese culture or the American culture she has attached to. Hatsue is calm and tranquil on the outside but has inner turmoil. She is faced with choosing duty over desire. Her duty is to her mother and her culture and her desire to be able to be happy, unrestrained by demands of society ad culture. Hatsue chooses to honour her culture and marry a Japanese man, Kabuo Miyamoto, and rejects Ishmael Chambers by sending him a letter. Throughout the novel, Hatsue tries to reconcile conflicting values of individualistic idealism and stoic passivity but this struggle never ends for her. Kabuo Miyamoto is a Japanese man who is also Buddhist. Because of his Japanese culture, he subjected to prejudice and has been charged with murder. He is innocent but the trial is very long and ugly one that would have ended in a guilty verdict if it was not for Ishmael handing in evidence that would save him from jail. Kabuo also went to war and fought for America. It was very traumatic for Kabuo because he believes in karma so he thought ‘he might pay for his war murder’, hence being charged with murder. War haunts Kabuo the way that Hatsue’s rejection haunts Ishmael. Kabuo is seen as cold, removed and guilty by society because he wears a mask that is unreadable that allows society to see him as man that is hiding something. Kabuo had to make the choice whether or not to go to the sheriff and tell him that he was the last one to speak to Carl Heine; who was murdered. He chooses not too which arouses suspicion that he murdered Carl over getting his families land back. At first, Kabuo sees his trial as unfair and unjust and gives up on trying getting out jail because he thinks he deserves it and because he stands no chance with the jury because of societies prejudice against the Japanese. Although he loves his family, he chooses to put himself at the mercy of chance because he believes that he doesn’t own the right to decide his future.

Snow Falling on Cedars creates imagery as well as symbolism. Snow is contradictory in nature and interpretation as it beautifies as it destroys and it covers and it cleanses. It is symbolic of snow covering and burying the relationship between Hatsue and Ishmael. Snow also symbolises concealment, specifically Hatsue and Ishmaels forbidden love. Kabuo sees the snow as “infinitely beautiful” and is reflective of his calm exterior in court and the internal fury he harbours about his families land and war experiences. Ishmael links the snow with his childhood. “He hoped that it would snow recklessly” like it did when he was teenager because it was “so rare and precious”. The snow to Hatsue is simply just snow but when Ishmael makes the decision to hand in the evidence that got Kabuo out of jail, she sees the snow as “pure”. Cedar trees are associated with strength, longevity and antiquity. “This place, this tree, was safe” is referring to the cedar tree where Ishmael and Hatsue meet and becomes symbolic of their relationship and how it is removed, hidden and private. The cedar tree represents an escape from the prejudice society; once in the tree they can do what they want but once out they are restricted. The cedar tree also prevents Ishmael and Hatsue’s relationship from developing as their relationship is not realistic. The cedar tree is also more literally shelter Ishmael and Hatsue’s and keeps their secret from the rest of society. The cedar tree will always represent Ishmael and Hatsue’s love. For Hatsue, the cedar tree equals a temptation. She turns her back on temptation and ends her relationship with Ishmael. Hatsue knows that if she gives in to temptation she won’t be able to turn Ishmael away again. For Ishmael the cedar tree represents the endurance of their love. He has an unrealistic vision that he still has a chance with Hatsue even though she is married with kids. The cedar tree is where his heart leads him but Hatsue chooses to follow her mind rather than her heart leaving him alone in life.

‘Salute’ follows Peter Norman, an Australian running legend who supported fellow runners; Smith and Carlos, when they raised their hand with a black glove in the air, clenched in a fist. To Norman, Smith and Carlos, they were trying to demonstrate the equality of African-Americans in America but the world perceived it as the rise of black power. In this time period, it was not uncommon to see signs where separate sinks were labelled ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’, or ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone’ due to discriminatory world. The black glove on the clenched fist represented unity and strength. The stadium went silent when Smith and Carlos raised their fist in the air even the singer of the national anthem went quiet. The conflicting perspective was that the media began writing that Smith and Carlos were betraying their country by raising their fist. Peter Norman supported his fellow runners because he was brought up to believe in equality. The film features some still photos of Norman’s family in Salvation Army uniforms which reinforces his belief system and shows that he supported his fellow runners because it was the ‘right’ thing to do. “There was no such thing as discrimination. It was a matter of men are created equal” is what the 3 men, Norman, Smith and Carlos believed in and when this is being said, the documentary juxtaposes this with film of race riots in the US and Australia so the audience can understand the conflicting perspectives over this event. The discrimination of colour that escaladed post 1968 Olympics was outrageous. Martin Luther King, the American black civil rights leader’s famous speech “I have a dream” preached peaceful protest but he was gunned down in 1968 which caused further riots. There were cover ups of deaths when nearly 2000 people were killed, the media reported 30 deaths. The U.S government and the Mexican Government, they covered the slums of the city with fences that were filled with posters. “Looked between the posters and I could see the slums of the city there” is said by Carlos. Norman ultimately believed “in human rights. The fact that we were in different teams, our skins were different colours, didn’t make much difference.”

The representation of conflicting perspectives are integral parts of the novel ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ and the documentary ‘Salute’. This is shown through the discrimination of race and justice. The prejudice society that Kabuo lived in affected his and his family’s life dramatically and the discrimination of colour during the 1968 Mexico Olympics change Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ life forever.

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