Guilt, Shame And Betrayal In 'The Reader'

analytical Essay
661 words
661 words

Prompt 4 : The context of guilt, shame and betrayal in''The Reader''
By Andreas Kill

The Reader is a novel by Bernhard Schlink set in postwar Germany. The novel revolves around the live of Michael Berg, who, at the age of 15 met and had a love affair with Hanna, a much older woman in her 30's. After a brief afair that lasted only months, Hanna dissapeard one day, leaving Michael to face inner termoil regarding the reasons for her disertion of him. Many years later, when Michael is a law student, they met again at a war crimes trial. A war crimes trial for Hanna, who worked at Auschwitz concentration camp. In the end, their feelings of guilt and shame lead to Hanna's tragic death. But why did the author place so much emphasis on these emotions? In doing this, Berhard schlink was trying to portray these emotions as things which can destroy us, and those around us. Exsamples of guilt, shame and betrayal can be found all through the novel, but I will focus only on three of them in this essay. The first major exsample is the shame of adults, including Michaels father, for their acceptance of the Nazi regime during world war 2. The second is Michaels guilt for betraying Hanna by not aknowledging her at the swimming pool. And the third is Hanna's own shame at being illiterate.
During the time in which the novel is set, many parents lived in the shame for tolerating the actions of the Nazi regime. Michael explains how you people reacted to their parents as more and more discoveries about Nazi atrocities were being made by saying, 'We in all condemned our parents to shame, even if the only charge we could bring was that after 1945 they had tolerated the perpetrators in their mist.“ (34). The shame caused by thier tolaerance ...

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...e, as shown when she refuses to have her handwriting tested against the written report during the trial. Instead she opts to take the full blame. It is ironic that while her illiteracy lead Hanna to make many unwise choices, becoming litterate in the end of the novel, and the subsiquent knowledge she gained by reading, brought about her untimely death.
In conclusion it is important to distiguish between the concepts of shame and guilt in he context of the reader. All key junctures in The Reader are more closely related to shame then with guilt : Hanna's shame about her illiteracy, Michaels shame at reveiling his relationship with Hanna, ect. An analysis of guilt would require the asking of questions relating to morality and hence responsibility, wheras shame has more to do with self conciousness nad self awareness, and is irrelevent in determining culpability.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes the context of guilt, shame and betrayal in andreas kill the reader, a novel by bernhard schlink set in postwar germany.
  • Explains how many parents lived in the shame for tolerating the actions of the nazi regime. the shame prevented michael's father from creating a true bond with his children.
  • Analyzes how michael and hanna began to grew apart towards the end of their relationship. michael sees hanna, but doesn't acknowledge her presence because his friends are there.
  • Analyzes how hanna's shame of being illiterate is one of the defining aspects of her life, leading to her court appearance and life-time jail sentance.
  • Concludes that it is important to distiguish between the concepts of shame and guilt in the context of the reader.
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