Snow Falling On Cedars: Ishamel – Friend Or Foe? Essay, Research Paper
Ishamel: friend or foe?
There are evil people in the world. It?s amazing what they can do and have done, that?s why so many people watch documentaries of Jeffry Dahmer and Ed Geen. Evil comes in many forms and several different levels of severity. From cheating to kleptomania and kicking cats to lampshades. I believe it comes preloaded when you are born, probably genetic, but for better or for worse it can be influenced by your childhood. Good kids can do bad things if they grow up waking up to mom and drunken dad screaming at each other, while love and care can nurture some evilness out. This is where Ishmael comes in, I believe he is born with a nice little hunk of the *censored* DNA with a little twist of selfish. Thank goodness for his birth location, those kinds of things aren?t found much on San Piedro Island. I think the cards just kind of fell right for Ishmael, there really wasn?t a good chance for his attitude to come through.
He was born to Arthur and Helen Chambers, good and honest folks, an owner of newspaper and a mother. San Piedro Island is a small strawberry farming community. Kindness thrives in a place like this, and for the most part those good vibes swallowed up a lot of his evil. There is a strong Japanese presence on the island, being one of the closest places in the states to Japan, and racism was strong. I would expect that this would be the outlet for Ishmael, but it didn?t turn out that way. When he was young and the evil gene was still dormant, he hung out with this Japanese girl named Hatsue. The relationship blossomed as they got older and the bond between them was very strong. Ishmael and his weakness clung strongly to this relationship and clogged the opportunity for racism.
As time went on, and the evil in Ishmael grew, subconsciously Hatsue was noticing it. She decided that this relationship was all wrong and ended it before it got too hairy. Well it was hairy anyway, because Ishmael was so into her. This breakup was happening at the exact time the whole Pearl Harbor fiasco was boiling over and Japanese-Americans were being sent off to concentration camp. While things were kind of tumbling down for Ishmael it was almost as if fate was still watching over him. His fate can?t control her actions, so instead of letting all this hurt and sorrow get the best of him and let that evil gene take over, maybe do something really crazy, fate takes him off to war. War can stop him from really freaking out and doing something stupid on the Island, but it can?t heal him completely. Even at war his warped little mind could think of nothing else but Hatsue. Now with his love-link to the Japanese people broken, and at war with them as well, his hatred within has a chance to finally show its face.
Ishmael lost his arm in a battle against the “Fucking Japs” (250). That hate is real, that is really inside of him, he doesn?t feel any guilt after saying that. But you can hardly blame him for that one; that was just his first strike. Besides, we were at war with the Japanese and you can hardly battle with a people you at least don?t pretend to hate. Every soldier over there probably used that same line on numerous occasions. But these guys over there saying all that garbage are just innocent hicks. The same guys would probably help an old Japanese women change her tire if she was on the side of the road in their town, and smile about it. Ishmael is no idiot and his words feel real here. If Ishmael saw that same old lady he?d glare at her and think “that *censored*ing goddamn Jap bitch” (251).
Ishmael?s arm gets blown off when he was participating in an island siege somewhere in the Pacific. Bummer. I allocate a maximum of three years to be depressed about that one. He is back from the war now and maturity has set in. In his adulthood the gene thrives. It is impossible to blame his cynical outlook on everything solely on the few setbacks in his life. He cops and attitude with everyone he runs into, including his own mother, while she is trying to give advice. The reason I am being so harsh on the guy is this. As readers we get a pretty detailed view of the life and times of Ishmael Chambers, and what can we say? He had a happy childhood. He hooked up with a really nice girl and dated her for years and years, sounds nice. He had very nice parents. He went to war. That?s it. Not too complicated, and it sounds pretty pleasant overall. Now he?s older and he turns out like this. It may take a trained eye like mine but this is a sure case of evil genetics.
Even more time goes by and Ishmael still hasn?t gotten over Hatsue. During the trial he even begs her for one last embrace. “If I could just hold you, one more time?” That may be Oscar material, but it sure doesn?t say much about Ishmael?s mental health. Get over it, get the net. Congratulations goes out to Hatsue for ending it right there, a firm denial on her part. The final hinthint and it was a good one. I?ve never lost an arm but I think that everyone at one time or another has dealt with losing a loved one. I?ve had my share of setbacks as well, and I think I?ve turned out to be a happy and well-rounded person because of it. Now it?s your turn Ishmael. Let?s all pray he can overcome his inherent disability and come out OK.
I think it?s clear now that there is a hidden undercurrent to this character. Friend or foe? we just may have to ask Guterson.
just the book