Guterson reminds us we cannot judge others by their facial expression or by their body language. We can only judge others only by seeing deeply into their hearts, seeing the coldness or warmth of their heart. For eighteen-year-old Ishmael, his childhood sweetheart, Hatsue, has her moods, "times when she went cold and silent and he felt her distance from him so completely that it seemed impossible to reach her. Even when he held her it seemed to him there was a place in her heart he couldn't get to." She denies that her reticence means she is withholding her love. She had been carefully trained by her upbringing, she said, to avoid effusive displays of feeling, but this didn't mean her heart was shallow. Her silence, she said, would express something if he would learn to listen to it.
For eighteen-year-old Hatsue, "what was love if it wasn't the instinct she felt to be on the moss inside the cedar tree with this boy she had always known? He was the boy of this place, of these woods, these beaches, the boy who smelled like this forest. If identity was geography instead of blood—if living in this place was what really mattered—then Ishmael was part of her, inside of her, as much as anything Japanese." She comes to realize that, for her and Ishmael, "(W]e're trapped inside this tree." A victim of racial prejudice, Hatsue has learned from high school on that "the truth was a burden to carry in silence." Like everyone on the island, she too has learned to "persist in the pretense."
Silence is a part of her; it lives in the silence of her mind. She is a master of the art of false preoccupation. She learns to conceal too much of herself. All this training will backfire on her; "Ishmael, at school, feigned detachment in her presence and ignored her in the casual way she gradually taught him to use."
We cannot even judge ourselves with any accuracy. "Kabuo sat in his prison cell now and examined his reflection carefully. It was not a thing he had control over. His face had been molded by his experiences as a soldier, and he appeared to the world seized up inside precisely because this was how he felt. . . What could he say to people on San Piedro to explain the coldness he projected?" The mask he has chosen to wear—"the face he had worn since the war had caused him to look inward— could convict him of first degree murder, which means the death penalty can be invoked. To Hatsue Imada Miyotomoto (and therefore to Guterson,) the question that worried her most was determining for herself her motive.
Guterson is fascinated by honor. There is the code of honor among fisherman, for instance. "You keep to yourself and I'll keep to myself," one...
(The entire section is 1097 words.)