Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In ''Snow Falling on Cedars,'' a Japanese-American man finds himself on trial soon after the end of World War II. This novel deals with themes of racism, justice, and personal prejudice, all of which are explored in the following discussion questions.

Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on Cedars is a 1994 novel by American writer David Guterson. The story is focused around a fictional murder trial in the 1950s, in which post-war racial prejudice against Japanese-Americans plays a significant role. With the book's themes of murder, love, sexuality, and racism, these discussion questions are designed for high school students. However, they can be adapted for middle school classrooms if you feel that your students are in a place to appreciate and handle these ideas.

Questions About Characters and Plot

  • Who would you consider to be the main protagonist in Snow Falling on Cedars? How are we introduced to Kabuo Miyamoto? How are we introduced to Ishmael Chambers? Describe each of these characters. What are they like? What are their personalities?
  • What is Snow Falling on Cedars about? How would you describe the plot of this book? What is the central conflict? How is that central conflict introduced? How is tension raised throughout the book? What do you think are the most important plot points that drive the story?
  • How does Snow Falling on Cedars end? What do you think about this ending? Does it make sense to you? How have Kabuo and Ishmael changed throughout the story? What have they learned about themselves? How have these experiences impacted the other characters of the story, notably Hatsue and Etta?
  • Think about the characters of this novel--what does each contribute to the plot? What defines a character in a novel? Can a place or an entire community be a character? In what way is the island of San Piedro and the entire community a character in this novel?

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