Hatsue is one of the main characters in this novel and many chapters are dedicated solely to her and her past, though within the first few chapters the reader is purposely only told certain details which can only amount to a certain judgement of character. In chapter one we are first introduced to Hatsue and even though it is a very small glimpse at Hatsue, it does describe a lot about her character. It could be said that this first introduction could be a summary of her character as a whole, but at the beginning of the book, which is an interesting device by Guterson. “Go away, repeated Hatsue Miyamoto.
Then she turned her head away from his. ” This is a very wilful and bitter attitude and we later learn that it is not just because her husband is on trial. This helps the reader understand her perspective and frame of mind as the novel proceeds. As a character Hatsue is torn between two sets of social perspectives. As we later learn she drawn towards Ishmael because he represents one set of values. It could be likened to the fabled “American Dream” which is prominent in many novels. The American Dream signifies the freedom of choice without prejudice and that everyone has their individuality.
On the other side of the divide is the traditional Japanese way of life. Hatsue’s mother Fujiko is the epitome of these values and she can be used to measure the extent of Hatsue’s own values. Mrs Shigemura instructs Hatsue in the Japanese ways and these are quite strict rules compared to the American ways. “Hatsue must never giggle and must never look at a man directly. ” These lessons are the factors which tear Hatsue’s morals in two. She has to decide which to follow because it is made clear that she cannot be in limbo between both. “Marry a boy of your own kind whose heart is strong and true.
Though these two moral views roughly project the cultural division between the whites and the Japanese, Hatsue is proof that such a basic division is impossible and that it is inappropriate to assume that all whites feel one way and all Japanese the other. Hatsue feels bound by duty to her parents, but at the same time resents Fujiko’s white prejudices. As a teenager, she loves Ishmael but feels that their love is somehow wrong. Later, Hatsue learns to accept that she can never love Ishmael and follows her mother’s wishes by marrying a Japanese man.
Yet when Kabuo informs her of his plans to go to war in the American army, Hatsue does not want him to leave. Her argument is similar to the one Ishmael makes in the cedar tree: two people in love should be together no matter what the rest of society demands from them. This is a very strange triangle and it just goes to show that Hatsue is always caught in the middle and does not ever manage to find balance in her moral values. When the Japanese are sent to the interment camp Hatsue’s mother sees it as a personification of how the Japanese and the whites will never get along.
But Hatsue is again caught in between. She feels guilty for deceiving her parents but when Fujiko demands that she sever all ties with Ishmael she argues, insisting that people should be judged as individuals rather than stereotyped as members of groups. Hatsue wants to believe that the Japanese and whites can get along because she wants to believe that her love for Ishmael, which feels right when she is in the cedar tree, safe from the realities of the outside world, can exist despite racial differences.
However, as the cedar tree cannot provide shelter forever, neither can Hatsue keep pretending that it will be possible to stay in the middle of both cultures. She makes her choice when Ishmael tries to have sex with her; she pushes him away and blocks him out, both mentally and physically. When she is in the interment camp Hatsue terminates her relationship with Ishmael and brings herself closer to her family. She had felt all along that the relationship was wrong and is now glad to be completely honest with her mother.
And her meeting with Kabuo, even though under strange circumstances strengthens her because she now has a better tie with the Japan she has chosen to accept, rather than the Hakujin way. Hatsue always seems to have to chose between the two cultures in all of her life. Guterson, possibly could have used her to highlight the difficulties that racism and prejudice inflict on people. Also it is open to debate whether Guterson has used her to show that it is always best to stick to ones own background. The role of Hatsue is certainly important but it is up to the reader to designate her purpose.