Island Ethos

…in which case they turned to their radios, checking in with various compatriots whom they invariably found to be checking in with them: hapless voices tuned to one another in the hope of some shred of knowledge. The most respected men, in accordance with the ethos that evolved on San Piedro, pursued no one and cultivated radio silence…

~Snow Falling on Cedars Pg 41~

If San Piedro were the world, and the mariners it’s rendition of men, then this passage must serve to embody the stoic honor in people of high regard. This passage though can be argued to be cryptic and subtle, seems to me as one of the most direct allusions to societal views and life. The seamless integration into the narrative, and then just as subtle outro embodies Snow Falling on Cedars’ literary style, able to delve in and out of  these side topics and stories of how characters came to be without disrupting the flow of the story. Although logically it is early for me to say for sure (I being only 1/4th of my way through the novel), I have a subtle conviction in my mind that these are the thing the author is trying to teach, and that there will be more of these passages as I continue in the book.

Although quite seemingly straight forward at first in that the message in the passage directly states the most respected men are the one who don’t beg or cheat, this passage does present a larger meaning to those with a bit of wit and chose the option to apply it.

The “hapless voices” that try many times to dupe each other out of information as to where the fishes are running have neither information to be duped out of nor the will to legitimately seek this information. This may as well mark them as the lazy bottom-feeders of today’s society that cons the welfare system and commit robberies just because the real work and effort done by honest people is just too much for them. I grant them no pity.

On the flip side, the most “respected men” can’t be counted on to be such mighty paragons either. They have through hard work, time, and honest effort acquired a unique  niche on the island that allows them to be successful. They are the pride of the fisherman and followers of the honest code that evolved on the island, they need not beg or worry about the day’s catch… and they keep their radio in disuse so as to keep things that way. It doesn’t mean they are spiteful in their noncooperation, rather they are the more experienced fishermen around, and understands that “He who knows how to speak, also knows when to speak.” And they know spoiling the bottom feeding folk with the answer to their qualms will not bring about their enlightenment. Just like how the rulers of Sparta knew Spartans won’t be strong under the burden of a wall, the respected men know that the poor saps won’t be changed for the better if they are spoiled with gifts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *