The Reader

The Reader

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Judge Character Analysis

The judge who presides over Hanna’s trial. Michael observes the judge’s near constant expression of annoyance, especially at Hanna’s contradictions to certain claims about her. When Hanna asks the judge what he would have done if he were in her situation, Michael realizes that the judge’s annoyance is a “mask” that allows him to take more time to answer questions. However, the judge has no satisfactory response for Hanna, as he answers only generally, rather than in personal terms.

The Judge Quotes in The Reader

The The Reader quotes below are all either spoken by The Judge or refer to The Judge. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Reader published in 1997.
Part 2, Chapter 6 Quotes

"Did you not know that you were sending the prisoners to their death?"
"Yes, but the new ones came, and the old ones had to make room for the new ones."
"So because you wanted to make room, you said you and you and you have to be sent back to be killed?"
Hanna didn't understand what the presiding judge was getting at.
"I ... I mean ... so what would you have done?" Hanna meant it as a serious question. She did not know what she should or could have done differently, and therefore wanted to hear from the judge, who seemed to know everything, what he would have done.

Related Characters: Michael Berg (speaker), Hanna Schmitz (Frau Shmitz) (speaker), The Judge (speaker)
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

The judge is questioning Hanna about one of the principal charges against her and the other defendants: that they selected sixty women every month to be sent to Auschwitz to die. When the judge asks Hanna if she knew the women would be killed, she not only admits that she knew but she attempts to justify their deaths by saying that “the old ones had to make room for the new ones.” Hanna does not understand the intent of the judge’s question, which was meant to determine whether she was aware that she was assisting in murder. But Hanna seems to view the prisoners’ deaths not as murder or as the loss of human life, but rather as numbers to check off in the name of efficiency or making space. When Hanna asks the judge what he personally would have done, she doesn’t understand that her question in inappropriate in the context of a trial—yet this personal, rather intimate question then implicates the judge as well, especially as another member of the generation that accommodated the perpetuators of the Holocaust. (And the question might well be aimed also at the reader.) Hanna’s misinterpretation of the question’s intent, as well as her question to the judge and her inability to empathize with her victims, all stem from her social and moral “illiteracy.”

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Reader quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire The Reader LitChart as a printable PDF.
The reader.pdf.medium

The Judge Character Timeline in The Reader

The timeline below shows where the character The Judge appears in The Reader. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2, Chapter 3
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
When the judge questions her, Michael learns that Hanna joined the SS voluntarily despite an offer of a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 6
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
...who speaks up to correct something in the indictment, only to be told by the judge that she had already had time to read through the charges. Hanna unwillingly agrees that... (full context)
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
...were true. However, Hanna is unable to see that her insistent contradictions are annoying the judge. Hanna, who “had no sense of context, of the rules of the game,” only makes... (full context)
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Yet despite this, Hanna “achieved her own kind of success.” When the judge asks Hanna if she knew she was sending people to their death, she answers, “Yes,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
The judge asks each defendant why she didn’t unlock the doors, and each answers that she was... (full context)
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
When the judge asks Hanna why she did not unlock the door, Hanna tells him they had no... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Michael debates whether or not he should tell the judge that Hanna is illiterate, that though she may be guilty she is not as guilty... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 16
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Michael decides to visit the judge but cannot bring himself to visit Hanna. Feeling hurt at being deceived, he questions whether... (full context)