The Reader

The Reader

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The Reader Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
With flowers in hand, Michael goes to the Bahnhofstrasse building, where another tenant tells him that the woman’s name is Frau Schmitz and that she lives on the third floor. Michael enters the building and discovers that the interior is clean, but also shabby, plain, and nowhere near as grand as he had imagined it.
Michael’s discovery that the interior of the building is rather shabby, contrary to his grand childhood fantasies about it, presages the dismay he will later feel when he discovers the horrifying truth about Frau Schmitz.
Themes
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon
Though Michael does not remember how he greeted Frau Schmitz, he remembers in great detail what her apartment looked like. The kitchen was the largest room and contained, along with a stove, sink, and table, Frau Schmitz’s bathtub, boiler, wardrobe, and couch. The only other rooms in the apartment were a small living room and a toilet. Michael doesn’t remember what they talked about, but does remember that Frau Schmitz was ironing her clothes on the kitchen table. Though he is embarrassed to watch her while she is ironing her underwear, he watches her nevertheless, attentive to details such as the red and blue pattern of her shirt, the style of her blond hair, the paleness of her skin, and the blue color of her eyes. Michael, as the narrator, is able to remember that he found her beautiful, but he finds himself unable to recreate her beauty in his mind.
That Michael does not remember what he and Frau Schmitz talked about but that he does remember in detail what she and her apartment looked like suggests a strong association between the visual and memory. Michael’s description of Frau Schmitz evokes Nazi racial ideology about the superiority of the “Aryan race.” That Frau Schmitz, as a blond-haired, blue-eyed white woman, fits the Nazi Aryan model so closely foreshadows the revelation of her work for the Nazis, as well as Michael’s complicity for being attracted to her.
Themes
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Holocaust Theme Icon
Generational and Parent-Child Conflict Theme Icon
The Image as Memory and the Gaze Theme Icon