Guilty In Eudora Schlink's The Reader

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Throughout The Reader, from adolescence to adulthood, Michael is “haunted by a personal sense of guilt” (Munteanu). He feels guilty for a variety of reasons, predominantly his lifelong addiction to Hanna. Since the beginning of their ill-fated relationship in his teens, he knew there could be no future for them; not even as friends. Yet, when she reappears in his college years, the lovesickness Michael felt as a child seems to come creeping back. Even as he tries to forget her after the trial, it floods back following the collapse of his marriage. His guilt for Hanna is only exacerbated by his and his classmates’ guilt for Germany’s role in World War II. They condemn the older generation, and Michael blames himself for falling in love with…show more content…
Through the birth of his daughter, the failure of his marriage, and all other personal relationships after that, she is always there. “Because in all [his] confused half-waking thoughts that swirled in tormenting circles of memories and dreams around [his] marriage and [his] daughter and [his] life, it was always Hanna who predominated” (Schlink 183) So, he decided to “read to Hanna. [He] read to Hanna on tape” (Schlink 183). Perhaps it was guilt for not having sought her out and spoken to her during the trial. Perhaps it was the loneliness that followed Michael around after she left when he was fifteen. More likely than not, Michael’s lifelong obsession with Hanna caused him to reach back and try to hold on to one of their old rituals. He is not able to bathe or sleep with her, so he instead decides to read to her. This is only further proven when the first book he records to send to her in prison is The Odyssey – the first book he ever read to her as a child. Soon Michael “began writing [himself], [so he] read these pieces aloud to her as well” (Schlink 185). “Hanna became the court before which once again [he] concentrated all [his] energies, all [his] creativity, all [his] critical imagination” (Schlink 185). Hanna is the be all and end all for Michael. Even without speaking for over a decade, he still values her opinion of himself the
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