David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars Essay

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David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars

Whilst setting up a puzzle to be solved, good crime fiction also takes the opportunity to explore and comment on the world it is depicting by conforming to and subverting the conventions of crime fiction. This can be seen in David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars in which he utilizes and adapts the conventions of the courtroom drama, enabling him to not only present a murder mystery, but also to explore the prejudices on an American 1950s audience and comment on its manifestations in today’s society. Similarly, Howard Hawkes’ film The Big Sleep explores and comments on the values of his world of immediate post WWII American society, rather than just
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Etta Heine is used to show the old bigotries and how they prejudice people’s reactions and perpectives. As the linear flow of the novel is interrupted, Heine recalls telling her husband, “We’re not such paupers as to sell to Japs, are we?” The victim’s wife, Susan Marie shows that she is not inherently prejudiced but knows little of Japanese culture and is therefore wary. In this way, Guterson explores the racial prejudice surrounding Kabuo’s trial and the world he is depicting; by depicting racial tensions as simmering beneath the surface of a seemingly sleepy island, typical of the classic mystery text, Guterson comments on its possible manifestation in today’s society.

Guterson’s novel is an example of “good crime fiction” because his murder mystery, far from curtailing its potential, explores and comments on the moral responsibility of the world he is depicting whilst simultaneously presenting a stimulating puzzle to solve. Guterson strays from the convention of a murdered victim in order to explore a society that has betrayed its moral responsibility – the real crime is begotten of people’s minds, their emotions and ignorance. Guterson comments on these values through his detective figure Ishmael, who parallels the lone, reluctant hero common in hardboiled crime fiction. By adding an element of romance to a

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