How effectively does Guterson use the conventions of the genre of Crime Fiction in the opening chapters of Snow Falling on Cedars?
Within the novel “Snow Falling on Cedars”, the novel begins in a courtroom on San Piedro Island in the Puget Sound region of Washington. The courtroom in this novel is described quite simply as “a cramped gallery…scuffed tables for the defendant and his prosecutor.” Guterson describes the courtroom physically, identifying key objects which are without a doubt linked to the Crime Fiction genre; however the courtroom is not only the physical setting but also a metaphor for Guterson’s overall intent in the novel. While the citizens of San Piedro put Kabuo on trial, Guterson puts the community of San Piedro, and history itself, on trial. Just as a trial relies on testimonies to establish a story, leaving a jury to decide guilt or innocence based on these testimonies, the novel presents testimonies of its characters’ beliefs and values, leaving us to decide who is guilty and who is innocent. Guterson gives us the jury’s position within the novel.
Guterson describes the snowstorm brewing outside the courthouse, a storm that lasts throughout the whole of Kabuo’s trial: “The sea wind drove snowflakes steadily inland, hurling them against the fragrant trees”. Even though a snow storm may not be a typical feature of Crime Fiction genre, the aggressiveness of this storm presented by the use of personification portrays to the reader an uneasy, chaotic atmosphere which can be found in Crime Fiction genres. This storm forces the islanders to cooperate, even as they put one of their own members on trial. More importantly, it represents a force of nature that humans are powerless to control. Yet while a storm rages outside, inside the courtroom people try carefully to determine the guilt or innocence of a man. This tension between the aspects of life that individuals and communities cannot control and those they can and should control persists throughout the novel. The trial of Kabuo is a human affair, while the snowstorm cannot be controlled by any human being. Tension is usually portrayed in a Crime Fiction genre.
Guterson uses italics to present the feelings of Abel and Art when they discover Carl Heine’s dead body: “now clearly it was Carl’s face, his mouth open…