Snow Falling On Cedars: Hatsue and Ishmael\'s Incompatibility

Dear Ishmael,

…I don\'t love you, Ishmael. I can think of no more honest way to say it.
From the very beginning, when we were little children, it seemed to me
something was wrong. Whenever we were together I knew it. I felt it inside of
me. I loved you and I didn\'t love you at the very same moment, and I felt
troubled and confused. Now, everything is obvious to me and I feel I have to
tell you the truth… I am not yours any more.
I wish you the very best, Ishmael. Your heart is large and you are
gentle and kind, and I know you will do great things in this world, but now I
must say good-bye to you. I am going to move on with my life as best I can, and
I hope that you will too.

Sincerely,

Hatsue Imada


Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, is an emotional story in
which we see the life of a man who could not move on and a woman that did. The
man, Ishmael, is hopelessly in love with the woman, Hatsue. His love for her
can not be dissuaded by anything; not her words, her wishes, or her marriage.
He holds on to Hatsue because of his feelings for her, even after he gains the
knowledge that it is extremely improbable that he could ever be with her.
Hatsue is much more logical and rational with her feelings. She saw her love
with Ishmael for what it was. She realized she did not really love him and that
she was still learning what love really is. She moved on with her life, whereas
Ishmael could not.
Ishmael\'s view of love did not change throughout the novel. He met
Hatsue as a child, and formed the idea that he loved her through his limited
knowledge and through his adolescent view of relationships. His love was
simplistic, yet real. He had concrete reasons for his love. He enjoyed being
with her. He looked forward to meeting her in the hollow cedar tree. He went
out of his way to see her, even if she did not see him. He thought of her no
matter what he was doing. In the simplest sense of the word, he loved Hatsue.
Hatsue was the second to think she fell in love. She reacted to Ishmael.
When they kissed on the boat, she did not think as much of it as Ishmael. She
did not realize he loved her until he told her. She then realized she liked
being with him, and returned his love partially in spirit, but completely in
word. Her initial intent was to extend friendship towards Ishmael. They were
friends since their early childhood, and Hatsue saw nothing more of it on her
own. Deep down, she just wanted to be really good friends, even if she did not
realize it at the time.
The turning point in their lives was not caused by the war, but this
eventuality was brought about sooner because of it. When Ishmael told Hatsue
that he would be going off to war, he was really asking her if she would wait
for him. That day when they held each other it was not the same. They both
realized that they were victims of circumstances out of their control. However,
Ishmael believed they could overcome them. In fact, it was not the war that was
the obstacle. It was the fact that Hatsue was not sure of her feelings. At
that point Hatsue finally realized she did not love Ishmael, while Ishmael was
as sure as ever of his love.
Hatsue was finally in touch with her real feelings. She had become
mature enough in her mind to understand the feelings she had, and she had none
beyond that of friendship for Ishmael. She felt a moral obligation to tell
Ishmael of her feelings, which she did. Upon recieving this letter Ishmael was
crushed. Yet his love for Hatsue did not diminish. She told him that she would
not be happy with him, and later he found she had married someone else. He
could not accept the fact that Hatsue would never be with him. When Ishmael had
proof of Kabuo\'s innocence late in the novel, he hesitated in bringing it
forward. This reveals much about the type of love Ishmael had for Hatsue. His
love was definitely the same love he had as a child for her. It was