Rated of 5
The hidden symbolism in The Reader
Marvelous book! Interesting that no review picked up on the incredible symbolism that the author wove into the story. If Hanna was first generation Germany, and Michael represented the second generation, post-war children, it fits very well. Hanna committed a heinous crime by abusing an underage child, one that was seriously sick at that. She was self centered, indulgent and yet was ashamed of being illiterate, not of murdering innocent people or taking advantage of a child sexually. This story had nothing to do with love!
Michael's continual references to Hanna's back as the key feature that attracted him----strong and reliable, broad----said that he was a child looking for more than sex, he was looking for protection and dependability from adults. At the trial, he describes how he sat behind Hanna and decoded her back, i.e., she sat straight, pulled her shoulders up around her neck (protectively), and never shook her head at accusations, never flinched.
Because of Germany's continual pride, the World never heard her ask the Jews for forgiveness for the massive crime in which they were complicit. Germans even allowed the SS guards and magistrates to live among them after 1945 when the War was over and the concentration camps began unfolding their excruciating secrets. The author did the most provocative thing he could do when he called Hanna (Germany) illiterate; after all UNESCO defined Germany as the most literate, cultured modern society of their day because of the origins of the printing press and printing of the first Bible, giving their country the advantage of available reading material long before the rest of the World.
And so when Hanna says to the judge at her trial, "what would you have done?", we hear Germany still saying today that they didn't know what was going on around them in the camps----"after all, there was a war going on"----but the second generation Michaels in that very country are numb and ruined because they were violated by grown adults who wouldn't stand up in the midst of the horror. Bravo, Mr. Schlink!