The Reader

The Reader

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The Reader Part 1, Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the beginning of his Easter vacation, Michael decides to surprise Hanna one morning by going on her streetcar. Expecting a private kiss on the second car, he is hurt to be rejected by Hanna, who stays in the first car, talking to the driver. Stop after stop, Michael “tried to impale Hanna with [his] stare,” but she looks at him only once and otherwise ignores him.
Michael makes a romantic gesture toward Hanna, but Hanna ignores him, demonstrating the apparent one-sidedness of their relationship. Michael’s intense stare at Hanna is an attempt to make her remember him, but she still ignores him.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
Eventually, Michael leaves in tears and goes to Hanna’s apartment to ask her why she acted as if she didn’t know him. However, she returns the accusation, saying that he got onto the second car when she was in the first. When Michael tries to explain that he had gotten up early during his vacation to surprise her, she sarcastically mocks how hard that must have been.
Michael discovers that Hanna ignored him because she apparently misunderstood his intentions. Her cruel insistence that his actions have nothing to do with her demonstrates both the distance she imposes between them and her inability to empathize with him or to discern the consequences of their affair on his feelings and actions toward her.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Despite Hanna’s poor treatment of him, Michael tries to understand her point of view and begins to apologize for upsetting her, only to be told that he “[doesn’t] have the power to upset [her].” Though she dismisses him from her apartment, he returns and takes on all the responsibility, asking for forgiveness and claiming that he understands she is upset not because of him but because “she simply couldn’t allow [him] to behave that way to her.”
Unlike Hanna, who does not seem able or willing to empathize with Michael, Michael easily empathizes with Hanna and apologizes. However, in order to maintain her distance, Hanna does not accept his initial apology, as it would assume Michael’s power over her emotions.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
Hanna forgives and bathes him, and they have sex as usual. When Michael finally explains why he had gotten into the second car and not the first, Hanna lightheartedly dismisses the whole episode, but it sets a precedent for the rest of their relationship. Every time Hanna threatens to “send [him] away and withhold herself,” Michael caves, taking all the blame for mistakes or intentions that weren’t his and begging for her forgiveness.
Once again, Hanna’s domineering behavior toward Michael—always dangling her attention before him as a “gift” she can take away—shows that she is the more powerful partner and controls the nature of their relationship.
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
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