Characters[ edit ] Michael Berg, a German man who is first portrayed as a year-old boy and is revisited at later parts of his life; notably, when he is a researcher in legal history, divorced with one daughter, Julia. Hanna Schmitz, a former guard at Auschwitz. She is 36, illiterate and working as a tram conductor in Neustadt when she first meets year-old Michael.
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Themes and Colors LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Reader, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The primary concern of the novel is guilt about the Holocaust. Examining the role of guilt in post-war Germany, The Reader presents guilt as a pervasive and inevitable force.
An important motif running throughout the story is the question of who must be held responsible for atrocities committed during the Holocaust. Michael and his generation lay blame on not only the Nazi perpetrators but also the bystanders — the previous generation who looked the other way, either by their inaction during the Holocaust or by accepting Nazi sympathizers and perpetrators back into society after the war.
Guilt is destructive in that it creates inner conflict as well as conflict within relationships and across generations. Yet however destructive guilt may be, it also motivates people to take responsibility for their actions, to recognize mistakes and wrongdoing, and to avoid them in the future.
After his marriage fails, Michael feels guilty for the negative impact of his divorce on his daughter, motivating him to become more open in his relationships.
Essentially, Schlink is arguing that Germany must face and deal with its Nazi past in order to move forward. But even as Germany must accept guilt and deal with its Nazi past productively, absolution for the atrocities committed during the Holocaust is seemingly impossible.
The guilty must always remain in a state of guilt, because to forgive would be to allow the guilty to forget their guilt and their victims.
How often theme appears:The Reader Bernhard Schlink Themes War Guilt One of the main ideas in The Reader is German war guilt - guilt felt by both the war-time generation and the post-war generation.
The post-war generation, to which the author, Schlink, belongs, has struggled to come to terms with the war crimes committed by the previous generation. Article , often known as the War Guilt Clause, was the opening article of the reparations section of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War between the German Empire and the Allied and Associated attheheels.com article did not use the word "guilt" but it served as a legal basis to compel Germany to pay reparations for the war.
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Reader, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The primary concern of the novel is guilt about the Holocaust. Examining the role of guilt in post-war Germany, The Reader presents guilt as a pervasive and inevitable force.
The theme of guilt is portrayed in an unconventional way in the novel in that both the former SS guard (Hanna) and the young German boy born after the Holocaust (Michael) have reasons to feel guilty.
Hanna was involved during the war in leading Jewish women to their deaths in a burning church, and this is a source of guilt and something that she hides at first from Michael.
The Reader sold , copies in Germany. It received several literary awards and many favorable reviews. In , when the television network ZDF published a list of the favorite books of German readers, it was 14th, the second-highest ranking for any contemporary German novel on the list. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Reader, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust The primary concern of the novel is guilt about the Holocaust.