In the novel Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, Ishmael’s need for catharsis and catharsis itself is powerfully influenced by Hatsue. His emotions upsurge beginning with their childhood love by the ocean side, and because these occurrences happened so early in his childhood, he fell profoundly in love with Hatsue each day. As the two mature, they also grow apart, causing intense heartbreak on Ishmael’s terms. In the first letter he confesses to Hatsue how he “aches for her to come home” and he states “I’m lonely and miserable and think of you always and hope you write me right away. Ishmael is desperate for Hatsue’s love and affection.
He says without her, he has nothing. Ishmael is selfish and egotistical. Hatsue is in a prison camp where she sleeps in dust and lives around disease, and he is merely thinking of his own security and well-being. He continues his selfishness when Hatsue explains to Ishmael that she can no longer continue their relationship because she is deceiving her parents, his emotions climax; his hatred grows and he cannot contain it. He tells Hatsue “I hate you, Hatsue, I hate you always. Ishmael burts with pessimistic emotions during the war.
He once again writes Hatsue and says he is about to kill as many people as he can that look like her. He says his “numbness is a terrible thing… he was angry at them [japs] and wanted their death. ” He contained and expressed significant amounts of hatred. Ishmael means what he says completely, but he cannot get himself to tell Hatsue the truth. At this point when he writes the letter, he crumples up the letter and throws in into the sea along with his notepad. He still loves Hatsue.
Ishmael comes back from the war with all these emotions that he still posseses for Hatsue. He sees her in the grocery store, and even though she is holding her newborn baby, he tells her “I am like a dying person… I haven’t been happy for a single moment since the day you left… sometimes I think I’m going to go crazy… I don’t sleep… the feeling never leaves me alone. ” Ishmael can’t hold back his feelings for Hatsue, and even though he wants to forget about her, shown in his hate letters, this task is unimaginable, impossible.
The emotions of Ishmael control him when he discovers the note about the freighter and how it was most likely the cause of Carl’s death. He cannot bring himself to admit the incident. If he admits it, Kabuo will not be convicted and will stay by Hatsue’s side. Ishmael is selfish in wanting the man Hatsue is supposed to spend the rest of her life with to go to jail, to be found guilty. Kabuo would be set free with the court’s knowledge of this crucial piece of information.
When Ishmael rereads the letter “I don’t love you, Ishmael… When we met that last time in the cedar tree and I felt your body move against mine, I knew with certainty that everything was wrong. I knew we could never be right together…” he comes to the conclusion that the war and his arm had made his heart much smaller and he had not moved on at all. Ishmael has to be grateful even if Hatsue’s love for him has faded. Another example of this is when he sits in the Cedar tree and realizes that his place is not there anymore, that it was a childhood secret that someone else should have the chance to experience.
After all these years he is compelled to speak to Hatsue, and tell her the truth about the freighter and Carl’s death. His emotions stablilize and his guilt is set free. Ishmael gives himself the capability of moving forward in his life, and although he will never forget his childhood love for Hatsue, he learns to be grateful for her. David Guterson gave Ishmael an overpowering catharsis, which at many points in the character’s life “drowned” him. Throughout the story it affects his actions and key moments in his life, and alters him forever.