The Reader

The Reader

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The Reader Part 1, Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Whenever Michael asks Hanna about her life, about what she does when he isn’t there or when she isn’t working, she dismisses his questions. Hanna “gave [him] the space in her life that she wanted [him] to have,” and to want more would be “presumption” on Michael’s part. Whenever Michael asks her about herself, she dodges the question, acting as if the question is ridiculous or intrusive, or counting her fingers playfully as if he were a small child.
Hanna’s evasiveness to Michael’s questions once again demonstrates their distant and uneven relationship. Taking the dominant role in their relationship, Hanna determines all terms of their affair.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Michael only ever saw her once in public by accident. Near the end of his summer vacation, Hanna was perpetually moody, until one day her stress was suddenly gone. They didn’t start reading a new book together after War and Peace, but continue with the rest of their routine: Hanna bathes him, and they make love, yet Hanna “[gives] herself in a way she had never done before…as if she wanted [them] to drown together.” She then dismisses him, telling him to go to his friends.
Hanna’s decision to deviate from their routine foreshadows her departure. Though Hanna bathes him as usual, again evoking her role as a mother figure, they do not read a new book, perhaps because she knows they will not finish it. The difference in their lovemaking, “as if she wanted [them] to drown together,” recalls the narrator’s earlier comment on Hanna’s “invitation to forget the world in the recesses of the body.”
Themes
Secrets, Indifference, and Emotional Distance Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
Reading and Illiteracy Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
At the pool, Michael suddenly sees Hanna standing at a distance, staring at him. Frozen, Michael wonders why she is there and what he should do, but when he stands up, she is gone. The narrator notes that the image of her and her inscrutable expression at the pool is another one of his mental pictures.
Hanna’s gaze on Michael in public is perhaps her way of saying goodbye. Michael, however, will torment himself with this image for years, reading her expression as hurt and accusatory.
Themes
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