The Reader; Critical Study

Topics: World War II, Guilt, The Reader Pages: 3 (931 words) Published: October 22, 2014

Written task 2: Critical Response (essay)
How and why is a social group represented in a particular way? “How could it be a comfort that the pain I went through because of my love for Hanna was in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate…” This quote from Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader illustrates how and why two main social groups are represented in a symbolic way. In other words, Michael and Hanna’s love story is an allegory for the relationship between different generations in Germany: those who experienced the war first- hand, and those born after the war, the ‘second generation’. This relationship is troubled, for several reasons. Firstly, after Michael learned about the atrocities of Hanna, his opinion of her changed. Secondly, Michael tries to relieve his guilt for loving Hanna. Thirdly, both Hanna and Michael avoid being confronted with happened in the WWII.

Throughout the story, Michael is confronted with new and disturbing information about Hanna’s past, which causes him to see her and their relationship in a more negative light. In Part II, Michael witnesses a trial of World War II criminals. After learning that Hanna was an SS guard, he imagines Hanna during their time together, wearing “a mask of ugliness” (p145). Bernhard Schlink uses Michael’s altered memories to illustrate that when people like Michael hear about what happened during WWII, the way they think about how those involved changes. Information about the Holocaust also, in a way, caused Michael to change his opinion of his father: “I had no one to point at. Certainly not my parents, because I had nothing to accuse them of […] I had condemned my father to shame, had passed, and it embarrassed me.” This quote highlights the fact that children born after WWII were confronted with the crimes of their parents, causing them to question their parents.

Other factors that conflicted the relationship between the two social groups being represented, were blame and guilt....
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