To What Extent Does Schlink in His Novel “the Reader”

2 February 2017

Essay Response To “The Reader” To what extent does Schlink in his novel “The Reader”, show that it is impossible to escape one’s past. In his novel “The Reader”, author Bernhard Schlink through the use of techniques such as structure, setting and characterisation reveals to an immense extent that it is impossible to escape one’s past.

Schlink utilises the main protagonists of the text, Michael and Hanna, depicting their relationship, along with the idea of post war German guilt to further represent this idea.Michael is only fifteen when he first encounters Hanna, after this crucial point in the novel Michael and Hanna’s relationship eventuates and ultimately he falls in love with her, creating a physical and emotional connection that he is unable to escape. This is shown by Schlink through the use of techniques such as reflection and structure. Michael’s emotional attachment to Hanna makes him incapable of escaping her, as he is incessantly thinking and reflecting on his relationship with her.The idea that he can not escape her emotionally is portrayed through Michael’s comparison of Hanna with other relationships he has, “I could never stop comparing the way it was with Gertrud and the way it had been with Hanna…

To What Extent Does Schlink in His Novel “the Reader” Essay Example

I would feel that something was wrong” pg 171, Chapter 2 Part 3. This suggests that even in other relationships, Hanna’s presence was still felt by Michael. Schlink uses the technique of reflection when Michael discusses his time with Hanna by questioning, “Why does it make me so sad when I think back to that time? ” pg 35, Chapter 9 Part 1.This quote reiterates the fact that although at a time he felt so passionately for Hanna he is forever haunted by the memory of their relationship, which ultimately is a sad reality for him. This strong emotional connection felt by Michael whilst reflecting on the past illustrates how Michael couldn’t escape Hanna even when not physically with her. Michael’s inability to physically escape Hanna is also reflected in the structure of the novel. The story is separated into three sections, and each section is a part of Michael’s life where he is with Hanna in some form.

As this is written from Michael’s point of view, it suggests that he thinks the important parts of his life are the ones with Hanna. Michael’s physical attachment to Hanna is also evident when Michael says, “Then I remembered how I had blown the hair away from that neck and how I had kissed that birthmark and that neck. ” pg 98, Chapter 4 Part 2. This quote not only shows the inability of Michael to escape their relationship, but also uses Hanna’s body as symbolism for the frequent intimacy expressed in their relationship which supports the physical and emotional attachment Michael has to Hanna, and his inability to escape her.Through Hanna and Michael’s relationship, Schlink uses the setting of post-war Germany to explore the theme of guilt and the conflict between the generation who participated in WWII, the generation that came after, and the inability to escape one’s past. Schlink uses the conflict between generations as an allegory for the guilt in Hanna and Michael’s relationship. The post war generation is represented by Michael, and the war generation by Hanna.

Michael clearly outlines the guilt he felt for his part in the generational conflict in the quote, “I had to point at Hanna.But the finger I pointed turned back to me” pg 168, Chapter 1 Part 3. Through this, Michael demonstrates the guilt he feels due to his relationship with Hanna as she was a part of the war generation. Michael couldn’t escape his guilt, and as such felt compelled to keep in contact with Hanna in prison, which he did by sending her tapes. Hanna learns to read from the tapes Michael sends, and this allows her to read about the holocaust and the atrocities that occurred. This intensifies Hanna’s guilt and results in her taking her own life, which suggests to the reader that she was unable to live with her past.The theme of guilt is further explored and intensified when Michael, on Hanna’s behalf, meets with the Jewish woman affected by the crimes Hanna was accused of.

Schlink portrays Michael’s attempt to alleviate both Hanna’s and his own feelings of guilt sourced from their relationship and Hanna’s involvement in the crime in the quote, “She knew what she had done to people in the camp…she dealt with it intensively during her last years in prison” pg 211, Chapter 11, Part 3.The idea of being unable to escape the guilt of your past is shown by Schlink through the increasing negative consequences of Michael and Hanna’s relationship that result from the setting of post-war Germany. Through the characterisation of Hanna, Schlink deeply demonstrates that the past was impossible to escape. One of the main components of Hanna’s character is that she was illiterate. Many of Hanna’s past decisions that greatly affect the present are based in her illiteracy.

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