Free Will vs. Fate in David Guterson’s novel, Snow Falling on Cedars

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There are many unpredictable and ungovernable accidents, coincidences, and chances that drive the universe and can ultimately affect the events of a person’s life. One of the main concepts surrounding David Guterson’s novel, Snow Falling on Cedars, is the power of free will vs. fate. The last sentence of the novel: “accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart” explains the lack of control that humans have on the forces surrounding them compared to the control they have over their actions or decisions and the impact that it has. Snow Falling on Cedars looks closely at the effect free will and fate has through the murder trial that occurs post World War II in the story where a Japanese American, Kabuo …show more content…
Throughout the novel, each character struggles against the unchanging and inevitable forces that affect their lives. An example of this is Ishmael Chambers who despite his experiences in the war and having the woman he loves leave him, Ishmael has managed to accept and live around what cannot be changed. During the war, it was by chance that Ishmael was the only survivor from his platoon out in Betio where he must not only suffer the trauma of a veteran but the loss of his arm. Despite this loss he managed to cope with his missing arm and the profound unhappiness brought on by the war turned into cynicism with age. However slight, the change in Ishmael’s perspective can be seen from the following text in the novel:
He learned to be cordial to everyone [. . .] Gradually Ishmael came to view himself as a one-armed man with a pinned-up sleeve, past thirty and unmarried. It was not so bad, and he was not so irritated as he had once been in Seattle (Pg. 36).

Apart from learning to overcome the internal struggles that came with being a war veteran, Ishmael had to learn to accept that Hatsue can no longer be his in the way that he desired. As he struggled with this idea throughout the course of the trial, Ishmael finds the one thing that can help Hatsue’s husband, Kabuo, in his trial; the documents proving that Carl’s death was caused by the passing of a freighter ship. Ishmael struggled with the ulterior motive of getting

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